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Case study: Q&A with Lead Research Nurse, Joanna Samways


An Interview with Joanna Samways, Lead Research Nurse at UHD

What is your current role and what led you into research?  

I work at the University Hospital Dorset (UHD) as a Lead Research Nurse, managing a Clinical Research Team of seventy staff, including Senior Research Nurses, Research Nurses, Midwives, Allied Health Professionals and Clinical Trial Assistants.

At the start of my nursing career, I worked on the medical wards at Bournemouth for five years, across a range of different settings. During this period, I studied for a Masters in Nursing in my spare time. My interest in research was sparked by the two research modules that I took as part of this degree and also my dissertation, which involved my own clinical research. 

After completing my Masters, I left the NHS to work for a respiratory research organisation called Synairgen. As I was part of a fairly small team there, I got a lot of valuable experience and many different opportunities, such as writing clinical study reports and protocols and eventually project managing a phase 2 clinical trial. 

I was keen to move back to the NHS after gaining this experience as I wanted to have an impact on more patients from a greater diversity of different backgrounds. 

How would you describe a typical ‘Day in the Life’ of a Lead Research Nurse? 

I spend a lot of my time supporting the clinical delivery team and working out how we will recruit participants into studies that are happening at UHD. There’s a lot of problem solving involved in overcoming barriers to recruitment and setting up studies.

I’m constantly evaluating the resources available within the team and assessing where we have the required skills and experience to take on new studies. As most of the team are working on between three and ten studies at a time, this can be quite a complex process! 

What do you enjoy the most about your role? 

I love finding out about the new studies coming through and how they might shape the future of medicine and healthcare. The studies can be about any health or social care topic so I’m always learning about lots of different areas.

I also really love the dedication of the whole team here. Everyone is genuinely compassionate and enthusiastic about patient care and research and improving healthcare in the future. 

Each day is different and there is a huge variety in what I do. Some days my focus is on patient safety and other days it is focussed on  more strategic plans. Ultimately the best part is the influence and improvements that our work is having on patient outcomes.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about a role in research? 

Take the leap and give it a go, especially if you like things to be organised and have good attention to detail. 

You will really enjoy being able to spend more time with patients, being by their side more on their treatment journey and supporting them through the research process. Each day is guaranteed to be different and varied. 

How would you want to 'Shape the Future' of research? 

I’d like research to be as important as everything else in a patient’s treatment journey and for it to be in the minds of all healthcare professionals. In doing this, we’ll eventually be able to offer more treatments to more patient groups in the future.