Florence Nightingale was often considered a pioneering nurse researcher and she committed much of her life to understanding and using statistics to influence others.The clinical research nursing community in Kent, Surrey and Sussex will be celebrating International Nurses’ Day on 12 May, the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Nurse is vital in delivering clinical research to find new treatments and improve patient care. They provide and deliver high quality patient care and ensure that participants have a good understanding of their disease or condition and their treatment options. Nurses also ensure studies run smoothly as well as dealing with data collection, follow-ups, patient groups and industry, but most importantly of all they develop and build multi-disciplinary teams that deliver research.
Clinical Research Network (CRN) Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS) has three research nurses and a senior research nurse who work within the primary care team. The CRN KSS team coordinate and run studies in GP practices where there isn’t capacity to carry out research, as well as provide mentoring, training and ongoing support for all practice staff involved in primary care research. The nurses work alongside the primary care team facilitators who support GP practices being, or becoming, research active. To mark International Nurses Day 2019 we are highlighting their important role.
Claire Cox is Senior Research Nurse for the network, Claire says: “I feel privileged to work within an exceptional primary care research delivery team that successfully enable patients to access research opportunities. We are a flexible workforce and have made a significant impact by increasing the number of trials open and recruiting, growing the opportunity for people to take part in high quality clinical research. This is achieved by a number of things primarily through great relationships we have with colleagues, study teams, patients, practices and the wider clinical research nurse team.”
Dr Hugo Wilson, a GP for Mid Sussex Health Care and said: “Our practice is engaged in NHS research, but this has been made possible through the excellent support we have received from the NIHR nurse team. The pressure on primary care nursing is such that we have struggled to find sufficient staff time in-house. The NIHR nurse team have been invaluable in the process of initiating and completing research in our practice.”
Primary care research nurses Julia Rooney and Angela Dunne are based in Sussex and Sandra Mononga is based in Kent.
Sandra Mononga said: “Before starting my role at the CRN, I worked as a general nurse within the private sector. While I was working I studied Public Health as I wanted to work in the community to focus on preventive measures. During my public Health training there was a lot of emphasis on the need for more research on management of chronic diseases in the community such as cancer,obesity, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, hypertension, dementia just to mention a few. I then become interested in clinical research. I went on to study for a postgraduate degree in clinical research. Clinical research is essential in building the scientific foundation for clinical nursing practice.
“I joined the CRN 2016 after completing my studies. Being part of the CRN Research Nurse Team gives me the opportunity to provide evidence based care to my patients.
“Working as a research nurse is very rewarding as you work with other professionals to help improve treatment outcomes and still have an element of patient contact. Everyday is different. It’s a mix of being autonomous and working with different multidisciplinary teams on a wide range of studies in different primary care settings. We are constantly learning about new studies and potentially new and better ways to deliver healthcare.”
Julia Rooney said: “Before this role I was a Sister of a Cardiac Care Unit for many years during which time many advances were made in cardiac care through research. Patient outcomes were dramatically improved and this was where my passion for research and its efficacy was born. As an evidenced based profession, clinical research is absolutely key.
“As nurses we hope to make a difference to patients lives.However what’s really special about this role is that through our work in clinical research we are not only having a positive impact on the patients that we see, but together we are also changing care for patients in the future. The studies we are involved in will change lives, one cannot underestimate the value of that.
“I am very privileged to work with the patients that I work with who give up their time to participate in clinical research for the greater good. Working within clinical research is an opportunity to afford patients’ time ensuring each and every patient feels heard and valued, acknowledging them and their uniqueness.Through the recruitment process I am able to address their understandable worries or concerns which hopefully means they also have a meaningful and worthwhile experience as a result. In the last six years I have worked with so many wonderful patients and genuinely consider myself extremely fortunate to have done so.”
Angela Dunne said: “I always wanted to do something that made a difference which is why I chose a career in nursing. I enjoy my role as a research nurse; the patient is at the centre of everything we do and their safety and wellbeing is the first priority.
“The role provides the opportunity for one-to-one patient contact where we can spend quality time with patients and help them reach an informed understanding of the treatment options available as well as providing support throughout their care pathway. We provide practical information about the study and act as the point of contact for research-related queries but we are also available to provide information and reassurance about existing medical conditions.
“Within primary care, as with other areas of the NHS, there is a lot of pressure in terms of workload and capacity. GPs and practice nurses who have a passion for research may not have the time to set up and run studies, so the NIHR research nurses provide the support that makes this possible. We provide patients within primary care the opportunity to take part in clinical research.
“Working as a research nurse within primary care is rewarding and I’m always impressed by the altruistic nature of our patients; they give up their time for study appointments and agree to be randomised to trial interventions. I have been lucky enough to meet many wonderful patients who volunteer to participate in research for the benefit of others. They know that the research we do may not directly benefit them but that it could have a positive impact for future generations.
Angela, Claire, Julia and Sandra all say: “We cannot recommend the role highly enough, it is a wonderfully rewarding job. We went into nursing because we wanted to work with patients and provide high quality care. This role ticks all the boxes - it allows us to utilise our clinical backgrounds and improve the patient experience and means that we can continue to make a difference.”
For International Nurses Day 2018, four of our Research Nurses from across the southeast told us why they enjoy their jobs and why it is important to recognise the role of research nurses on International Nurses’ Day.
“I have been involved in research as researcher and research nurse for over 15 years and with time comes the opportunity to experience firsthand how (or if) your contribution has made a difference. This is really important to me. I am proud to have been part of a number of studies that have led to improvements for patients. Such as, a whole programme of research that developed and tested a new physical risk assessment tool (sensory impairment and pain) not previously used for the prevention of pressure damage. It is now used in practice.
“I feel privileged to work within an exceptional primary care research delivery team that successfully enable patients to access research opportunities. This is achieved by a number of things primarily through great relationship we have with colleagues, study teams, patients, practices and the wider Clinical Research Nurse team. Also with the wide range of service support that is offered and continues to grow and innovate, and not least the exceptional flexibility of the research nurse’s availability to maximise patient access to research, as well as the professionalism they hold to ensure patient safety is paramount.”
“These days research nursing can be seen as a true career pathway of choice. These nurses are often in a privileged position, working closely with their specialist consultants, while identifying patients in multidisciplinary team meetings and clinics and acquiring a wealth of information first hand. This positively impacts on the informed conversations about research with patients, who need to fully appreciate what can sometimes be subtleties in treatment options.
“When visiting sites, I regularly witness our nurse’s passion and commitment and observe that their focus is the patient. They demonstrate integrity and many give over and above with their time, greatly enhancing their patients' experiences. This is part of the nursing culture that becomes part of you throughout your career and can reward you with great job satisfaction.
“I hope to have students nurses coming through who recognise that a research nurse role within the clinical research network is a valid and exciting career, which they can come into at any point in their career and that it provides valuable knowledge and transferable skills which you can take back into the clinical areas.
“The great thing about nurses delivering research in the NHS is that they bring with them that wealth of knowledge, skills and abilities to be able to not just focus on the research but are able to see the patient a whole. It is the holistic view of the participants in research that enables you to use a lot of skills picked up from different experiences and focus it all into looking after the patient who is taking part.”
"Being a research nurse is such a diverse role. There are so many specialities and so many different roles that you can become part of. I have worked in research in Critical Care, in the community and in a local District General Hospital, so my experience is quite diverse itself. I love networking across Kent, Surrey and Sussex, meeting new people and sharing best practice. I love working out recruitment strategies and seeing recruitment increase as a result. My biggest dislike is data entry! Fortunately I do not do so much of it anymore, but I would always tackle it with my headphones in and a large cup of tea!
"Research Nursing is such a different element of nursing, and in comparison to other aspects of the NHS, the roles are still quite new. It is such a unique role and we are at the forefront of groundbreaking treatments and new therapies. Research nurses are the core group that drive new evidence based practice, so it is so vital that we celebrate and understand the contribution that they make.
"To mark International Nurses Day I have been invited to speak at the NIHR Celebrating Clinical Research Nursing event on 11 May on becoming a leader in the NIHR."
“I come from a mental health nursing background, and throughout my career I have strived to work in areas that have a strong foundation in the use of evidence based practices. This is to reflect my interest and belief that the clients in my care should have access to the best treatments available. This interest and belief enabled me to work closely with the R&D team to bring studies into the team and develop into a Principle Investigator.
“Three years ago I took the post of Clinical Research Nurse within Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, and remain the only research nurse within the Trust. Working in research, and as a research nurse has quite simply made me feel like a nurse again. For the first time in several years I am able to offer clients my time, and skills alongside high quality research projects. To be honest, this is the happiest I have been in my career for many years.
“It is a personal goal of mine to encourage nurses within Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust to become more research confident and competent, and I have tried several means of doing this. This has been a challenge, partly due to the historic culture of research within the Trust being undertaken by professions other than nurses, but also the challenges faced by nurses in their daily work which can often leave little time for interests such as research.
“At present I am working in close collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University in the development of research skills in trainee mental health nurses, this is an unique collaboration which we hope will enable students to qualify with an interest, appreciation and confidence in research that will enable them to be 'cheerleaders' for research. There are further plans to build on this which with the support of CRN KSS Lead Nurse, Caroline Cowley, which will enable us to help Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust fulfil aspects laid out within the Trusts first nursing strategy to develop nurse Principal Investigators.”
“One of our Trust values is Making A Difference – and I know that research does this for our patients by developing new evidence, not just for treatments but also assessments, symptom control, the way our services are delivered. It is great to be part of this.
“If I have to say something I dislike not having enough hours in the day!
“I have never met a research nurse who isn’t passionate about their role, which must be something to celebrate! We are advocates for our patients, and are here to both ensure patients feel well supported and also that their safety is paramount, particularly if they are taking part in a drug trial.
“To work as research nurse you need to be independent, able to manage the many different priorities which are all equally important. I enjoy being able to manage my own workload and to be able to still work clinically with patients whilst being involved in the wider roles required by research such developing procedures to ensure protocols are adhered to, or managing data queries.
“I am celebrating International Nurses Day by presenting at the annual East Kent Hospitals Ophthalmology Nursing Forum on Saturday 12 May – entitled ‘A Nurses Day Celebration’. I am going to talk about how to develop an interesting thought into an actual research question, as I am very keen to encourage all staff (not just nurses!) to feel they can engage in research for the benefit of their patients.”