A day in the life of cancer research nurse Amy Kirkby who has been part of the clinical research facility team at Pilgrim hospital since 2013 and before that worked on ward 7a (oncology and haematology) at the hospital.
We have a large portfolio of trials open across the Trust which is predominately led by the Clinicians however some are led by Research Nurses, Physiotherapists and Radiologists. Last year we had almost 2,000 people take part in around 200 trials and my role is to support clinicians and their patients who are suitable for a trial.
When we begin setting up a trial it is like looking at a map and we have to work out how we are going to navigate our way to finding the right patient and making it work with the various departments. It is exciting, challenging and at times can be frustrating. But when you get that first patient onto a new study it is a real yes moment.
Our recruitment strategy varies dependent upon the trial – patients are identified via MDT Meetings, in Outpatient clinics or on the wards so you can expect to see Research Nurses in all of these areas.
We support our Consultants by having all the information to hand to enable them to offer trials to patients. We work behind the scenes to make sure relevant tests and investigations are done at the right time.
We also become an advocate for the patient by ensuring that they have all of the information to make an informed choice. During this process we are there to answer any questions, keep them informed and allay their anxiety and fears. We also help them to consider whether the trial is the right choice for them taking into consideration any other commitments they may have such as caring for a loved one.
Trial participation is entirely voluntary. Usually, whether a patient wants to participate or not, their standard care pathway will continue it’s just if they sign up for a trial they gain the addition of a research nurse (like me) as well. It is not an alternative service, but more of a bolt-on.
Our trials don’t always involve new drugs. Sometimes it’s a case of using different doses or new combinations of already licensed drugs. Or we might be asked to do observational studies of standard care and no new drugs are used. It might also be that when a biopsy of a tumour is taken, once all of the routine tests are done, a small sample of that tumour is sent away to look for things like genetic mutations.
We can send samples all around the world. Last week bone marrow was sent to Munich and blood to Geneva. I needed to complete on online form for another study and found the website was only in Dutch – a quick e-mail to the Study Centre helped with this! It just shows how much research is going on out there and how we are increasing our presence and profile all of the time.
The majority of our studies are led by academic institutions, however, we are increasing our commercial study portfolio which generates an income for the Trust.
My typical day can involve attending MDT meetings, seeing patients in Clinics, attending trial set up meetings, processing and dispatching samples, updating online patient records, completing case report forms – no two days are the same. I enjoy the balance of having regular face to face time patient contact and also keeping up to date with all of the paperwork – and there is a lot of paperwork, but that’s because there needs to be. Our role is very much a team effort centred on the patient and we could not do our job without the support of other departments in the Trust.
It is amazing what can be achieved when we all work together.