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Day in the life of a Research Nurse

16 Dec 2021 15:18:55
Cheryl Graham

Cheryl Graham is a newly appointed research nurse at the Trust, whose job is to support the research team by finding participants who are currently in the hospital.  

The Trust is working on a number of studies ranging from pneumonia treatments to oxygen usage.  

We caught up with Cheryl to talk about her role and why it’s so important for the Trust to be involved in research.  

“I qualified as a nurse and got my first job here. I did the Compass rotation, which involves different placements on different wards. After moving to Critical Care (CC) in 2019, I began the role of research nurse in May this year.

“After working on Critical Care for over two years, when I came into research nursing it made sense to focus on the studies available to the patients there. The nurses and consultants know me, I understand the patients, and so it's easy for me to approach the staff about patients who are eligible for studies without there being any barriers.”  

Cheryl’s current role is very different to CC nursing. “When you work on CC it’s all about those particular patients your whole shift, and you do everything for that patient, whereas in this job you’re picking and choosing your own workload.  

“It’s taken me a bit of time to adapt to being in control of my own workload, depending on what is needed.”  

First thing in the morning, Cheryl checks Meditech and screens all the ITU and HDU patients to see if any of them could be eligible for any of the studies she’s working on. There are five studies that are currently ongoing on ITU. Most of the patients are eligible on admission.

Cheryl then discusses the patients with consultants on the wards to find out if they agree over the patient’s eligibility for the studies. Cheryl will then talk with the patient to tell them about the trial and gain consent. When patients are not able to consent themselves, Cheryl turns to the families.  

“On ITU the patients are sedated so I ask the families and a lot of them are pretty receptive to things because it’s such a new experience for them. There is a whole lot of information for them to take in and they are learning a lot at that time, so they are listening to you and they are happy to help if it benefits people in the future.  

“I think it’s good for patients and relatives to be a part of research because they get an extra person checking in on them and because I used to work on CC it gives them an extra person covering all the information, and it’s another pair of eyes on that patient.”  

At the minute the Trust is involved in a study on antifungal tests, which requires a blood sample from patients with a possible fungal infection. Another study, UK-ROX, looks at the amount of oxygen used on patients in ITU.  

“Another, REMAP-CAP, is looking at possible treatments for pneumonia. It’s got a Covid arm to it as well, a bit like the Recovery Trial,” said Cheryl. “We’re doing the REMAP-CAP for all HDU/ITU patients, so hopefully that will lead to more improved treatments for pneumonia, which will have a big impact because quite a lot of our demographic of ITU patients tend to be respiratory.”  

Working to the same protocols

Studies are usually set up by a university or larger hospital and other hospitals will feed into it.  

“All the studies the Trust is involved in include a number of hospitals across the UK or the world, all working on the same thing to the same protocols.

“Any study needs its sample to be diverse. No matter how big or small your hospital is, you want research to be representative for everyone, you need a diverse sample and, if you live here, to have the option of being a part of research is good.”  

Hospitals that provide research have overall better outcomes for patients, such as improvements in mortality.  

And for Cheryl, the role is also a chance to promote research across the Trust.  

“It’s a really diverse role,” says Cheryl. “I think a lot of people don’t really know what a research nurse does, I think it’s because you become so busy in the role that you do and work with the patients in front of you that you let other specialities get on with it. Research is important as all of what we do within healthcare needs to be based on evidence and we would like more staff across the trust to be open to research.  

“For me, it’s nice to see different patients at different parts of their journey. You don’t usually see that, especially if you work on ITU, where you only ever see the sickest, the worst case scenario, but because I follow patients through to discharge I see the whole picture a bit more now.”