Sue Allen and Kate McCloskey

Sue and Kate, both from the NIHR Clinical Research Network: Eastern, talk about their respective roles

Sue Allen
Clinical studies nurse, NIHR Clinical Research Network: Eastern

In 2001, I saw a small ad in the local paper for a job as a diabetes research nurse for a University of Bristol Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) to take over the total management, recruitment and admin of the study from a research fellow whose Doctor of Medicine degree (MD) research project had overrun. This was pre Good Clinical Practice (GCP) days and things were a bit slapdash by contemporary standards.

After shadowing the research fellow for 2 weeks, I was on my own - in at the deep end. I had been a practice nurse in a permanant post for 15 years and barely knew how to log into a computer. Suddenly I was thrust into the world of databases, literature searches, statistics, randomisation...and insecurity (a 2 year contract). But I was immediately hooked, it was love at first site (sic)!!

On to 2014, and I am a clinical studies nurse with National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network: Eastern, facilitating, recruiting to, implementing and performance managing several Primary Care studies at any one time, and in the process travelling to GP practices all around the county. In the years in between, I have headed up a new Clinical Research Trials Unit (CRTU), attended investigator meetings in places such as Madrid, Berlin and Hungary, worked on a large epidemiology project, completed my BSc degree, and a PG Cert in Clinical Research, led on an NIHR/RCN endorsed Informed Consent DVD, was a professional  member of a Research Ethics Committee (REC) for a year and developed a GCP based training package for practice nurses in research which evolved into a regional training programme.

Furthermore, I have learned about a wide range of clinical conditions with every research project I have been involved with, met and networked with numerous investigators and study teams and had the priviledge of using my decades of nursing skills and experience as part of countless participants lives for anything between 1 hour and 1 year.

Be a research nurse if you want every day to be different and a challenge. Nothing else quite gives the same scope to work as part of a team, but also autonomously. Professional updating is a constant, automatic ongoing process. I am passionate about research nurses being recognised as a clinical speciality and hope that this will happen before I retire.

Sue Allen Clinical studies nurse, NIHR Clinical Research Network: Eastern

Kate McCloskey
Research nurse, NIHR Clinical Research Network: Eastern

I have been working as a qualified nurse in a variety of areas since 1995.  My previous roles include working on a general surgical ward, in a private hospital, various other ward roles and prior to becoming a clinical studies research nurse I worked as a community nurse.

Although I enjoyed working in the community, after many years of clinical nursing I was starting to feel that I would like to work in a different environment with new challenges.  When my family relocated to another part of the country it was my opportunity to jump from the safety net of what I had known for the past 18 years.

The position of clinical studies nurse was advertised on the NHS Jobs website for a fixed term of 6 months.  I read the job description and was excited by how different the role looked yet still maintaining a level of patient contact.  Luckily I was in a position to be able to take a fixed term contract and I have since learnt that many contracts for research are fixed term.

In the 7 months that I have been in post (my contract was extended) I feel that I have learnt an enormous amount.  Good Clinical Practice training gave me a practical knowledge of how to set up a study and the ethical and quality standards required.

Planning, communication and problem solving are a key part of my role and I have developed confidence in liaising with study teams and GP's.  My IT skills have also improved and using different computer systems and study databases are a routine part of my remit.

I still work as part of a supportive team and I do ask advice from my colleagues.   Running research clinics has been challenging and can often involve learning new practical skills.  I have learnt the importance of careful planning although until you run that first clinic you can never guarantee you have thought of everything!

Meeting research participants and their families has been at times truly inspirational and the sense of achievement of seeing your study working in practice is enormous. Research nursing may be a jump in to the unknown but I would definitely recommend it!