Why did you become a research nurse?

Posted on by Kelly Gleason in Professional Development, Research

Like many of you I ‘fell’ into research nursing. Some are scouted by a professor with a project and a grant or a senior research nurse who spotted your ‘talent’ while working alongside you in out-patient clinic.  Today even scientists are drawn to clinical research exchanging petri dishes for patients.

Whatever it was that brought you to clinical research you were likely looking for something: a change, a challenge, an adventure, a desire to grow and expand. In those first few months, you began to piece together a picture of what clinical research was ‘really’ about, all you needed to learn, who you needed to become, who you would now consider your ‘colleagues’ and that not everybody was going to see research as important as you did.

But if after learning all that, you stayed:

  • It is likely because you felt you found something you liked.
  • It felt good to learn new things.
  • It felt good to be challenged – even if it was daily.
  • It felt good to contribute to making things better.
  • It felt good to work more autonomously.
  • It felt good to be part of a motivated team.

When I ask people attending Developing Yourself in Clinical Research what they feel the benefits of their role are, they usually say:

  • Autonomy
  • Innovation
  • Creating change
  • More time with patients
  • Variety

Jobs in clinical research definitely give people the opportunity to experience all of the above.  Just think back for a moment to all you have learnt since taking on your first role in research:

  • You learnt about TMFs, ISFs, CRFs and SVDs. Things you likely knew nothing about before entering into research.
  • You learnt new laws and regulations.
  • You learnt some science.
  • You learnt the real meaning of informed consent and that robust informed consent takes time, more time than we usually cost for.
  • You probably thought deeply about the ethical principles of research.
  • You learnt to balance a centrifuge, pipette with no air bubbles, and some may even have become familiar with the ‘buffy coat’.
  • You learnt to package dry ice without putting your courier’s life at risk.
  • You learnt to use encrypted USB sticks.
  • You learnt to ask nicely…and sometimes desperately for an urgent MRI or PET scan.
  • After your first inspection, you leant to take pride in maintaining site files. To the MHRA, that file is a reflection of your work.
  • You’ve probably learnt to have your voice heard in meetings and circles where you may not have ever spoken before.
  • You have developed your PR, your marketing & your public speaking skills.
  • You have redefined assertiveness.
  • Mapped patient pathways from parts of the service you didn’t even know existed.
  • You’ve learnt to work with different personalities, stakeholders and agendas.
  • You created recruitment strategies.
  • You established yourself as the ‘hub’ of the team.
  • You learnt how far a ‘can-do’ attitude gets you.

You have likely grown in ways you never thought possible. You are a trail blazer.

pRoles in the field of clinical research are still ‘new’.  You are creating new pathways for others to follow.  This is by no means an easy task but somehow I know you are up for the challenge. There are so many ways to grow and expand skills.  Professional pathways need to be forged but we also need to build bridges between cultures if research is going to truly become part of healthcare in the UK.  Whatever you talent or interest, there is a place for you to contribute and make your mark.

More research than ever is happening in the NHS. We have a greater number of open studies and a greater number of patients taking part in studies than ever before. You are the largest body of professionals carrying out clinical research in the NHS. You are the engine that is making it all possible. You are changing the culture in the NHS. You are creating opportunities to improve services and develop new career pathways.

Whatever brought you here, I am glad you stayed. It is fantastic to be part of this network of individuals dedicated to improving healthcare through research.  It is energising to be with, and to share with like-minded people who have also desired to break out, explore new territory, learn new skills and discover hidden talents. If you are new to clinical research, hang in there…the good times do come, be patient and give yourself time to transition into this new world of clinical research. It is worth it, I promise.

If you are new to research nursing, why not join us on Clinical Research: Getting Started!

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