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Building the pathway to successful research

Anthony Drexel with the device that is being tested as part of the EMBOL-1 trial.

Building good relationships with patients and colleagues is key to good trial recruitment, according to a research nurse from the North Thames region.

Anthony Drexel, who is based at Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, comes to research from a background as an A&E nurse, so he is used to seeing patients arrive with symptoms of blood clots.

In his research role, he is helping to run a study called EMBOL-1, which is evaluating a point-of-care device that can test for D-dimer in patients’ blood when they present with symptoms of a blood clot, usually in the leg or lungs. D-dimer is a protein fragment made when a blood clot dissolves in your body. Testing for D-dimer is done because a normal result can virtually rule out the possibility of a blood clot. Currently, A&E patients wait in the department until the result comes back from the lab. This can take an hour or much longer, whereas the device being trialled gives a result in six minutes.

Anthony said: “One of the main reasons the trial is doing well is because of the relationships we have built. The A&E staff are just brilliant and help us so much on top of their busy workloads. For example, the streaming nurses alert me when they see a potentially eligible patient, and the healthcare assistants often take blood for me at the same time as their diagnostic bloods, if the patient has consented. This makes consenting patients so much easier. Patients can see what the study is trying to achieve and it’s surprising how many people are willing to roll up their sleeve.”

Anthony suggested that this approach to teamwork was vital to success in research.

“Relationships and teamwork are so important, and I couldn’t do my job without all the support from everyone around me,” Anthony added. “Whether it’s the study participants, the entire healthcare team including pharmacists and laboratory staff, the wide research community, and everyone else that makes it happen such as the courier companies that ship our samples.”

Research was an attractive option for Anthony, after eight years as an A&E nurse, because of the career paths available, which is something the NIHR was focused on during its recent Your Path in Research campaign. Anthony enjoyed working with research nurses during his A&E shifts, so research was a natural next step for him.

“There are opportunities to stay clinical or move out of clinical roles and research also has an excellent work/life balance,” Anthony added.

“I enjoy the autonomy that research offers, but there is also tremendous support. The support in the role was the first thing I noticed when I started.”

Anthony came to the UK from Australia in April 2020 and would like to do more travel in the future.

To anyone considering a career in research, he suggested: “Notice what studies are currently going on around you, talk to people. Regardless of where you work, there is almost certainly things going on that you hadn’t noticed before. If you’re interested, put your hand up.

“I believe anybody can take part in research, even without changing careers or doing it full time. Also, some of the training you need to get started, such as the Good Clinical Practice qualification, is available right now and is free of charge.”

Caption: Anthony Drexel with the device that is being tested as part of the EMBOL-1 trial.