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12th May 2023

Health and Care Research Wales celebrates the work of our Research Nurses this International Nurses Day

This International Nurses Day (12 May) we are highlighting the important role of research nurses in health and care research in Wales.

Research nurses are integral members of research teams working in hospitals and clinical settings. From supporting patients participating in clinical trials and studies, ensuring compliance with ethical standards, and collecting data, the work of research nurses is critical in advancing medical knowledge and improving patient outcomes.

Helen Tench, the Lead Research Nurse at Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth, describes her experience in the nursing profession and how she became a research nurse. After qualifying as a nurse at Cardiff University, Helen began her career in Bronglais Hospital on the General Medical wards.

She initially left nursing to study countryside management but continued to work as a band nurse throughout her studies. When she started her PhD studies she found she was unable to find enough time to continue to work as a nurse. Finding that she enjoyed the academic research aspect of her PhD studies, but missing out on the patient contact hours, Helen undertook a return to nursing course and subsequently returned to Bronglais. When she was offered the role as a research nurse, she leapt at the opportunity and hasn’t looked back since.

For those interested in becoming a research nurse, Helen recommends finding their local research team and asking to shadow them for a few days to gain a better understanding of the role. If that is not possible, consider getting involved in studies and asking if there are opportunities for nurses on the ward to be part of a study on the delegation log. This will give aspiring research nurses a good way to learn more about the work and get involved in existing studies.

Helen’s team at Bronglais has grown from just three people to seven since she has been there and the growth of research in the hospital has led to increased engagement with staff and patients, resulting in more awareness of research. This year Helen won a Health and Care Research Wales, Research Time Award, this award will enable her to undertake her own independent research. Helen is proud of the difference she has seen in the hospital since she started working there, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped raise the profile of research, making them more visible to most people in the hospital and public.

Seeing how the profile of the team has increased in the hospital, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge source of pride for me

Lisa Roche, a Senior Research Nurse at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board (CTMUHB), began her career in intensive care nursing but was looking for something different. In 2011, she saw a job application for a research nurse role at Velindre Hospital, which intrigued her, especially the aspect of cancer research. She applied, got the job, and it went from there.

Lots of people have a perception of research and believe it is only for certain types of people, but that’s not true. Research nurses do it all, from taking informed consent to collecting data and undertaking study procedures.  We are patient facing and working on studies that can really make a difference.

The research team at CTMUHB, like other NHS Organisations were heavily involved in the many national and international COVID-19 research studies, which helped inform and support the response to the pandemic. Research nurses, research officers and research assistants were on the front line, conducting clinical trials and studies that contributed to the development of effective vaccines, treatments and testing technologies.

At the Clinical Research Centre at Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Lisa and the team undertook the Moderna Bivalent Vaccine trial. This was the first vaccine trial undertaken at CTMUHB. The vaccine was approved autumn 2022, in time for the national autumn booster vaccination programme. Lisa and the team are extremely proud of their achievement in undertaking the trial, especially as CTMUHB were the only site in Wales to run the study. Delivering the study has been an excellent learning opportunity and provided Lisa and all the R&D team with the skills and desire to undertake other studies of this nature in the future.

Lisa’s journey from intensive care nursing to research nursing highlights the diverse opportunities available in the nursing profession. The role of research nurses is critical in advancing medical knowledge and improving patient outcomes, and Lisa is proud to be a part of and contribute to generating this new knowledge and the positive impact it has on patient care.

To find out more about the work of Research Nurses that we fund, sign up to our bulletin today!