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Health Professional COVID-19 and Cancer Hub

Reflecting on cancer research nursing during a pandemic

Members of the CRUK Senior Research Nurse Network and Clinical Research Nurse Advisory Group reflect on the positive lessons they’ll take away from supporting people affected by cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How and why did you become an oncology clinical research nurse? 

“I worked as a nurse for 10 years in various settings and wards including intensive care. I fancied getting into something with a specialist aspect and had always had an interest in cancer. My first role in research was in a clinical research facility, which covered many different studies and tumours.” 

How would you describe your role as a clinical research nurse? 

“It’s incredibly varied. As well as managing patients on the ATLANTIS trial, I’m also currently collecting samples from other trial participants for further research. So far, I’ve collected over 400 stool and blood samples from patients with colorectal, pancreatic and breast cancer.  Our role is an important one, as we provide patients with a sense of security during their trial, as the named person in charge of their care. We see patients every time they come in for treatment and monitoring, build close relationships with them and become their advocates. We’re the link between the patient and the PI.”

What is the most satisfying part of your job? 

“It’s an important job. Working with patients, I know my work is making a difference. I like being a helpful cog in the wheel!”

What challenges does the role bring? 

“As an oncology research nurse, it’s difficult to keep up with all the different and hard-to-treat tumour sites and scenarios. Delivering bad news to patients can be hard, and you need to be very organised to keep on top of trial timings. However, the pros hugely outweigh the cons.”

How does your role fit with the wider clinical and research teams? 

“I’d like to think that people know what we do. Glasgow is certainly very research proactive, and in my experience, we’re open to and good at referring in oncology. I regularly speak with the clinical trials co-ordinator and oncologists email us when they think they have a patient for a trial. I’m not sure if this is the case everywhere, though. What I would say is that it’s important to follow up with your trial PI, and I’d recommend speaking with other staff members about trials as this can help with patient education.” 

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