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Case study: Your Path in Research - Placement opportunities show students the value of research

Rachel spoke to CRN Kent, Surrey and Sussex about her placement for Your Path in Research.

Rachel explains: "For my recent four-week placement I chose to spend two weeks with the research team at Royal Surrey County Hospital and two weeks at a GP practice. I wanted to do these placements because I hadn't had exposure to this area of healthcare during my other placements.

I didn't know how research worked within a hospital setting and I wanted to understand how it worked. I also did not know how to start a career in research, whether there were options to go straight into a research role from qualifying as a nurse, or whether you have to work in a clinical role for a few years first. I was curious about the legal and ethical aspects of research in terms of what I tell patients who ask me about research. I undertook Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training and now I understand how research activity is managed and regulated.

It was a fantastic two weeks, and I learned a huge amount. I spent time with the oncology research nurses and I found out how hands-on research nursing is. Patients in studies and clinical trials have an extra layer of care, as they may have extra screening and tests as part of their involvement. They also have extra interaction with healthcare professionals.

I saw firsthand how special the relationship is between a research nurse and a patient because sometimes patients can be on a trial for a long time, so research nurses have the chance to get to know the patient. They also have very honest, frank discussions with patients as the treatment offered on the trial may be their only option. However, the research team will not have a say on whether the patient is randomised to the treatment arm and I had not appreciated before the range of emotions felt by the research nurse, because you're providing a little bit of hope.

I saw the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes before a research team can open a study and I am impressed by the robust consent process and the screening process before you get to the stage of consenting a patient. I did not appreciate that research nurses are screening a lot of patients, patients who may not even make it into a study because they may not meet the eligibility criteria, or be randomised onto the arm they were hoping for.

I was amazed at how much patients give to research. They are giving a lot of their time to be on the trial, travelling to and attending appointments that could take place over a few hours. They are also helping other patients who come after them as the research may not benefit them at the time.

Before knowing anything about research you may think it is rather dry, but when you spend some time in research, you realise it is in fact very interesting. Working in research is like being a detective. It allows you an opportunity to think and problem-solve differently. I found it particularly exciting in terms of discovering new treatments. I am a mature student and I think because of my age I am aware of how healthcare and treatments have changed and developed during my lifetime, and that is down to research, which I find quite exciting.

When I qualify I would like to be involved in research, either helping a research team with a study as part of my nursing role or possibly becoming a research nurse. Even if I don’t work in research directly, my placement has given me a good understanding of what research is and I will feel much more comfortable and confident having conversations with future patients about studies."