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Catching up with Nicky Cunningham from the RECOVERY study research team

Catching up with Nicky Cunningham from the RECOVERY study research team

Nicky Cunningham

Job title:

Lead Research Nurse for Cardiovascular at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and NIHR 70@70 Senior Nurse Research Leader

Redeployed to:

Assist with leadership and delivery Covid-19 PHE priority research studies 

Can you briefly describe your normal role, pre Covid-19?

Lead Research Nurse for the cardiovascular research portfolio at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Managing a team of 15 delivery staff, 36 ongoing studies  with 756 participants in active follow-up via research nurse led follow up clinics which run Monday to Friday.

What are you doing in your redeployed role?

I am continuing to manage the cardiovascular team and portfolio of research, I am also ensuring participants are safely followed up via remote processes. I have been redeployed to assist with the RECOVERY study and critical care studies. I have also supported and allocated new roles within Covid-19 research for the cardiovascular delivery staff. For the RECOVERY study I am working with the research team leads to develop processes and oversight of the study, to ensure all Covid-19 eligible patients have the opportunity to participate where possible. This has included setting up a 7 day roster for research delivery staff, setting up a process to track study patients to ensure care in accordance with study protocol, training sessions for non-research medical staff, development of consent SOP, clarity of GCP working practices.

What does your new day-to-day routine look like?

I have an early start to catch up with emails and developments from the day before ahead of an 8am meeting with RECOVERY team lead colleagues to assess staff cover and updates. Followed by an 8.30am RECOVERY study delivery staff huddle, to communicate updates and distribute work. At 9am Covid-19 study team leads catch up to ensure all teams are supported with staffing. Then at 9.30am I’m part of the Durham Tees Valley Research Association (DTVRA) lead huddle to assess capacity and national updates. I spend the rest of the day updating processes for the ever changing protocols, supporting teams on Covid-19 wards by following up participants to ensure Investigational Medicine Products (IMPs) are prescribed correctly, Adverse Events (AE) and Serious Adverse Events (SAE) reporting if required, checking discharge medications and completing follow up data for those who have met an outcome or assisting in screening, recruitment and randomisation of new study patients.  

Management of the cardiovascular team and portfolio is managed around the Covid-19 research support. I’m working longer days during this time to support the team.

What’s the atmosphere like in the team?

It has been overwhelming for most involved, especially at the beginning where large numbers of patients were being recruited and things were changing day to day but now things feel a bit more stable, organised and supported. 

The large team required to cover a multi-arm Clinical Trial of an Investigational Medicinal Product (CTIMP) Randomised Control Trial (RCT) which has seen over 150 patients recruited in less than 5 weeks. 

It has been stressful and demanding for everyone involved. It has resulted, however,  in a team of research nurses, of whom many usually work in silo, working incredibly as a dynamic and responsive team. It is a great achievement for all involved.  Valuable relationships and collaborations have been built from this.

And how important is research into Covid-19?

For a novel virus such as this, research is the priority to gain knowledge of possible safe treatments for now and the future. Without these studies we would be missing vital, worldwide, opportunities to learn and develop treatment strategies for future generations in the hope that it will be more than another 100 years before the world experiences another health crisis such as this.

With the UK exposure of research for Covid-19, I hope this highlights how we must value the researchers and research delivery nurses and staff as well as recognise their contribution to the clinical care we practice and provide daily. 

I am proud to say myself and my team have been heavily engaged in these studies with the support of the wider research teams - it is an experience none of us will forget. 


To find out more about the NIHR response to Covid-19 visit: 

The NIHR is the nation's largest funder of health and care research and provides the people, facilities and technology that enables research to thrive.

To learn more about the RECOVERY study visit: