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Case study: Medway Clinical Research Practitioner shares her path in research

In Your Path in Research - a series that uncovers the research community across the National Institute of Health Research Clinical Research Network Kent, Surrey and Sussex region – we speak with Aimée about her role as a clinical research practitioner and her passion for research.

How did you start your research journey?

I studied social sciences as my undergraduate degree and really enjoyed doing my own research projects as part of my dissertation. After University, I worked outside of research but when a job came up at my local hospital in Maidstone as a clinical trials administrator, I applied for it and was successful. I was there for three and a half years and undertook my post-graduate diploma in Methods of Social Research at the same time; this gave me great insight into how protocols and research studies were developed. At Maidstone, I supported many different studies, including sexual health studies. I gained experience on the delivery side of studies as well as the governance side dealing with amendments and helping set up the studies. I found that my real passion was dealing with people and the participants and I was able to develop that side of my role by helping the research nurses with some of their projects. I called participants to ask them questions for questionnaire studies, and I worked on the MENCAR study, a large meningitis study where we went to local schools to talk to teenagers and obtain saliva samples.

After leaving Maidstone Hospital, I worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children as a clinical trials coordinator. It was interesting to see the comparison between a small district hospital and a large London specialist hospital. I didn't have the same sort of patient contact as that was mostly done by the research nurses, which I realised I missed. Due to the long and expensive commute to London from Kent I left that role, and then worked in the private sector as a clinical safety advisor, managing care home software and testing the software used by the 111 service. I missed research so much - the patient contact and the feeling that I was making a difference and so I applied for my current role at Medway NHS Foundation Trust.

What does your current role involve?

I'm a clinical research practitioner, a role I have been in for a year. Over the last six months, I've been working in our surgical speciality with trials such as ALLEGRO and ACCURE-UK-2. My role is quite varied. I work a little on the governance side of studies, for instance looking at amendments that come through, but also on the delivery side of research. For example, in the surgical studies, I support the doctors with consenting patients and have the opportunity to build up a good rapport with patients as I see them after their surgery, and do regular follow-ups, completing the case report forms and questionnaires. I enjoy talking to the patients and catching up with them every month or so.

I started off working with the respiratory and diabetes specialty and I am now the lead practitioner COVID-19 RECOVERY trial - Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy. I work very closely with our Principal Investigator (PI) and our pharmacy department and with doctors across many different wards. I have also worked on commercial studies. So I have covered a few different areas since I have been here, which is great as I have built up relationships with different teams throughout the hospital.

What do you enjoy most about research?

I enjoy making a difference to our patients and knowing that I am helping people who suffer from a condition or disease, especially when there are not many treatment options for them. It is exciting being at the forefront of new medicine. I enjoy being part of a team, research is successful due to teamwork and we all need to work together for it to work.

What are your career ambitions?

I’ve joined the Clinical Research Practitioner Directory and I’m working towards accreditation. It is great to see that there is now a proper career path for clinical research practitioners and that the profession is being recognised and appreciated. I'd like to progress to a senior research practitioner and gain more experience leading on commercial studies.