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Case study: Your Path In Research - Anne McGahey, Research Nurse, Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Case Study: Anne McGahey

Anne McGahey is a Respiratory Nurse Specialist and Research Nurse at Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Here she talks about how she found her path in research after wanting to know more about how clinical decisions are made.


Q: How did you become involved in health and care research?

A: I was a Sleep Nurse working in the Oxford Centre for Respiratory Medicine when the opportunity came up to apply for a Research Role in the Oxford Respiratory Trials Unit.


Q: Why did you get involved in research?

A: I was curious to know how clinical decisions were made and realised that research was the key to it all. Performing clinical trials to establish safe, tried and tested ways of delivering care and this inspired me to get involved from the beginning.


Q: What do you enjoy about working in health and care research?

A: I enjoy working with my patients who have the respiratory condition COPD. This disease area is predominantly caused by smoking but can be caused by pollution and a genetic component. Most people feel abandoned with this disease and resign themselves to not getting any better. Any form of help we can offer these patients whether it's to ease symptoms or find new biomarkers to detect exacerbations means we can try to optimise their care and try to make life a little more bearable.


Q: How can research benefit/add to your career?

A: As a Respiratory Nurse Specialist working in the Early Supported Discharge Service (ESD) for patients with COPD I can see first-hand how patients are living with their condition. Knowing I'm contributing directly to possible future clinical practice change adds great value to my clinical role.


Q: Why do you think health and care research is important?

A: Being knowledgeable about a patient’s condition helps you as a clinician to understand the complexities of the disease area and to know what optimised therapy looks like. This is invaluable when seeing this group of patients for research because patients then get specialist knowledge whilst attending the research visit which they might not receive otherwise.


Q: What are your hopes for your career in research?

A: I have been working with respiratory patients now since I qualified as a nurse in 2002. Starting with anaesthetics and recovery in theatres, managing the unconscious patients airway, being a sleep nurse setting patients up on CPAP, being a research nurse working with COPD, severe asthma, ILD, CF and COVID patients. Currently working as a respiratory nurse specialist with COPD patients in the RDUH, helping to aid swift discharges from the hospital and trying to keep patients in their own homes for longer rather than having multiple hospital admissions.  I hope that with continued research we can keep advancing care and treatments for our respiratory patients.


Q: Why is it important more people become involved in delivering health and care research?

A: Recruitment to studies can be challenging because if you don't work in that particular clinical area you are less likely to be aware of potential patients who might be eligible to participate. If you have an engaged PI who is able to identify the patients for you that's great but often times this is left to the research nurse.


If clinical roles were able to have protected time to be involved in research, they could learn what studies are available for their patients and bring this knowledge to the clinical role and be more able to identify potential patients for studies that are active in their area.


Q: What impacts have you seen research make in health and care?

A: Working with ILD patients I have seen first-hand how desperate patients are to find a way to prolong life, even if for only a few years. The willingness to participate in studies, in this group, is fantastic as they want to pave the way for future patients. These medications have proven to prolong life for a couple of years and more in some cases which is real world impact. Severe asthma patients have seen great advances in recent history with the new biologics which have proven, through research to be of benefit in reducing exacerbations, hospital admissions and possible death.


Q: What would you say to someone thinking of starting a career in research?

A: Go for it! It's varied and there are many disease areas to be involved in, working with all different age groups.