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Working in NHS research: Ruth’s story

A career in research can be hugely rewarding, by playing a role in developing new tests, treatments and ways of working that can save lives and change lives. In this article, Ruth Penn, a Lead Research Nurse at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, explains why she works in research. To learn more about working in research, speak with your R&D team or visit the NIHR website.

When I interviewed for my first research post I gave a presentation on how research benefits patients. I was already a research participant taking part in EPIC, a European wide study of cancer and nutrition so understood the motivation from a participant point of view. I’d also witnessed the development of novel neurosurgical techniques during my training in Oxford and believed in the development of new treatments.

Initially in 2012, I worked with the specialist bowel care team at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire looking at the impact of spinal cord injury on children. At that time clinical research nursing was a relatively new specialism with little established training available. It has since developed frameworks and induction packages to support anyone choosing to move into this field.

Most of my time in research has been spent within gastroenterology and hepatology, recruiting patients into observational studies and clinical drug trials. Being embedded within the clinical team who looked after hepatitis C patients during the introduction of Direct Anti-Viral (DAA) treatments was especially exciting and rewarding. Without clinical research, and the many participants willing to get involved, treatments would not have moved forwards to a curative outcome.

Research gives patients the option to contribute. They may directly benefit from early access to new treatments or gain a sense of goodwill from gifting a sample which might help future generations. Whatever the reason, I love having the time to build supportive relationships with my patients, whether that’s a one-off visit in a clinic or over several years of follow-up.  Research nursing is stimulating and rewarding, we’re constantly learning, have a lot of autonomy and I’m very happy to be treading this path.

To learn more about working in research, speak with your R&D team or visit the NIHR website.