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Case study: Getting A Head Start in Research - Vincenza's Story

All you need to know about being a Research Intern by Vincenza Montana

‘Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it’ – Maya Angelou.

Before commencing my role as a research intern, I felt incredibly nervous as research was still very new to me and with only a year to learn all aspects of research, I feltthere was very little time, as research is very broad. However,the team I worked with always reminded me that it is okay to not know everything as with research comes new knowledge all the time.

My team made me feel that my internship existed solely on my CV and as far as they were concerned, I was a full-time member of their team. This meant that throughout the internship I was empowered, supported, and appreciated for my hard work.

My background

I have graduated in BSc Psychology and MSc Counselling Psychology. I first developed my interesting research when I started my dissertation for my BSc in Psychology. Being a part of something that works towards better understanding and enhancing people’s lives is something to be proud of. After submitting my dissertation, I realised I wanted to gain a research role to familiarise myself with the steps involved with developing a clinical trial and obtain the ability to follow defined experimental protocols.

What I have done during my placement

My placement was held at New Cross Hospital and as part of my internship I have been involved with screening, attending Site Initiation Visits, randomising patients onto studies, and helping the project management team with localising, amendments, and approvals as well as completing blood forms. I have been fortunate to have assisted a patient with the completion of a questionnaire before randomising them onto a study under the supervision of a Clinical Trials Assistant.

Working with the project management team, I had been given the opportunity to start up a new study with minimal supervision; Training Programme for Clinicians. For this, I have had to liaise with PIs and Sponsors, complete an IRAS form, request and obtain a letter of access and R&D approval. This was a great experience as I was given an opportunity to be independent and face new challenges.

Challenges faced

The first study I ever helped with was SIREN, and for SIREN I was delegated to complete patient blood forms. As the weeks went on completing these blood forms, no mistakes were made until I realised I used a different code on another participant’s blood forms on this one occasion. This meant that the results from the bloods and swabs would go to the wrong participant. Thankfully, I noticed the error in time to rectify it before any results were sent to the wrong person.

I called the lab straight away to highlight my error so they could ensure the results were sen tto the correct patient, and from then on I double checked the information on the forms. It is important to always remind yourself that when you are new to something, mistakes are inevitable and that as long as you are willing to learn from them and work towards preventing them, you are already doing a better job.

Next step

During my final few months as a Clinical Research Intern, I started to apply for other research posts. I hoped that with the skills, knowledge, and abilities I had gained from this post I could gain another research role and to my dismay... I did! I successfully gained a band 5 Research Assistant role. This just shows that although at the beginning I felt that a year to learn all aspects of research was not enough, I ended up learning more than I anticipated, which helped me gain a role I never thought I would be able to achieve!

And with that... I would like to end with a quote by Helen Hayes “The expert at anything was once a beginner”. You HAVE to start somewhere, and the CRN provided me with a head start I never thought I would get.