During 2020, we are celebrating the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. It is 200 years since the birth of pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale. Today we think of Florence as the first research nurse, as she innovatively used data and evidence to transform patient care.

Research nursing now spans across all clinical specialities and ranges from supporting the delivery of clinical research to nurse led research.

For the third in this series of posts, we talk to Hemawtee Sreeneebus, Modern Matron for Research.

What drew you to a career in research nursing?

I didn’t really know what research nursing was when I first joined nursing in 1989.  After completing my three year nurse training, I worked for thirteen years as a qualified nurse without having any direct exposure to research nursing. I thought it was a speciality for the few and had nothing to do with nurses providing hands on care to patients. I could not have been more wrong.

My first exposure to research nursing happened while working as a chemotherapy nurse in one of the UK largest teaching hospitals. I met research nurses who were attending to patients enrolled into oncology clinical trials. I learned how clinical trials, the research nurses were supporting, investigate various ways to provide treatment such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone therapy. I had a better understanding of how treatments evolve through research and become standard practice as well as the importance of research nurse contribution throughout the whole process. I then applied for a research nurse job and have never looked back. I have had the opportunity to work in translational, investigator led and different phases of clinical trials in oncology and skin inflammatory diseases research studies.

Research nursing is about taking the best care of our patients while giving them access to treatment options they might not have had otherwise and improving patients’ outcome.

I loved the autonomy of the role, the specialised skills I have developed and the variety of work I undertake. I am currently working as a research matron and oversee a team of over thirty research delivery staff. Wherever my career takes me from here, I know that I want to stay within research, I have developed a passion for it.

What have you found to be the most rewarding part of research nursing?

We have the time to talk things through with patients and work closely with the medical team and specialist nurses to ensure the patient and their families are well informed about the treatment options that are available to them. What matters to them is taken on board and addressed, which is particularly important when patients are considering whether to take part in clinical research. I have found it incredibly inspirational how much patients are willing to take part in trials when they have so much else to contend with.

Research nurses facilitate the delivery of high quality clinical trials and studies and getting new treatments into the clinic sooner. They are experts in the delivery of clinical research, and a key interface between researchers, health professionals and patients. The patient is central to every part of the research nurse role, without them, treatments and improvements to health care wouldn’t happen. To be at the forefront of supporting patients to improve health care for the future is a real privilege as a nurse.

What do you think the future holds for research nursing?

The future of research nursing looks very promising. My main passion is thinking about how we can unite clinical and research nursing and create new pathways for others to follow. We need to continue to expand this speciality. In our Trust, we have started providing formal student nurse placement in research which is one of the ways to orientate and prepare our future nurses to consider research nursing as a career option. Our aim is to ensure that research is fully embedded within healthcare in this Trust.

Since I started in research in 2007 I have seen more career opportunities. More training has become available and there is a greater understanding of what clinical research nursing is. We try to encourage our nurses to consider all their development options. We facilitate academic development as needed and also strive to provide career opportunities.

A message for anyone considering a career in research nursing?

There are a specific set of skills that a research nurse needs. A solid foundation based on years of experience in nursing is vital to the role, but it requires a wide range of additional skills and knowledge. Coming into the world of clinical research from hands-on care provision involves a steep learning curve. Adapting to change is probably the most important thing. Time management and planning is very important.

There are so many ways to grow and expand your skills in research nursing. We facilitate academic development as needed and also strive to provide career opportunities. Whatever your talent or interest, there is a place for you to contribute and make your mark.