The joy and the hard work
While sitting at my desk I noticed a copy of Ann Raven’s book entitled ‘Consider it pure joy …’ which was first published in 1991, with my third edition published in 1997. In only 83 pages Ann Raven provides a very useful, if a little dated, introduction to how clinical trials work. I probably haven’t touched this book in the past five years so I dragged it from the shelf, blew off the dust and turned to the Forward. Dr Frank Wells, now a National Research Ethics Advisor (NREA) for the National Research Ethics Service (NRES) and Vice-Chair of the Research Ethics Committee (REC) I have the privilege to Chair, writes about the joy that can sometimes come from working in clinical trials. He also states that:
“It would, however, be unrealistic to expect the discipline of clinical research to be anything other than tough’.
Clinical research, and the environment in which clinical research happens, has undoubtedly experienced a revolution in the 14 years since Frank Wells wrote these words and this is particularly true for clinical research nurses. With the introduction of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), research networks, clinical research facilities and many other developments, clinical research nurses are now better supported, and their contribution to clinical research is more widely acknowledged, than ever before. But has the balance between enjoying the work of clinical research and the hard work that necessarily accompanies clinical research changed over this same period of time?
One of the biggest changes for nursing has been that entering clinical research as a research nurse has become a real career option for many nurses. Individual research nurses working in small research silos, where professional support and where opportunities for career development are limited, are now far less common. Clinical research nurses are now more involved in the many parts of the research process, from protocol development and meeting regulatory requirements to publication and presentation. This has created new challenges for research nurses but support networks and the growth in training have contributed to a workforce ready to take on these challenges. The work is harder but the satisfaction that comes from the greater involvement must also have grown. BBC Radio 5 Live’s recent programmes about cancer clinical trials at the Christie have highlighted the immense impact that clinical research can have on the lives of people with cancer. The satisfaction that clinical research nurses experience from being part of this has yet to be adequately described but the positive impact on patients could not have happened without the considerable hard work they also contribute to the research endeavour.
Dr Frank Wells concludes his Forward to Ann Raven’s book with the claim that ‘Research can be fun as well as hard work’. This is undoubtedly still true in 2011. The work might be harder but the satisfaction and joy is also greater.
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