research nurse Karen WilsonDuring 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 seventh interview in this series of posts, we talk to Karen Wilson, cardiac specialist nurse about her role.

Tell us about your career in research nursing?

I have been a cardiac specialist nurse for over 25 years and for the last 20 I have specialised in cardiovascular research. I am fortunate to have been able to be instrumental in developing the cardiac research department at King’s College Hospital and latterly repeat this within the cardiovascular directorate at Guy’s and St Thomas’.

Since April 2019 I have been the Co-Research and Development lead for the cardiovascular directorate. I currently manage a team of 16 nurses, practitioners, physiologists and study managers. My knowledge, commitment, enthusiasm and relevant experience ensures the research activity continues to grow and to deliver high quality research. This ultimately ensures that our patients of the future have access to high quality evidenced based treatments. Delivering high quality research that informs practice and improves patient outcomes is an overriding priority for me.

While the research department covers all aspect of cardiovascular disease, my own personal interest is valvular heart disease. In addition to being the lead research nurse, I am also the lead nurse for structural heart disease and manage the structural heart disease service and the three nurse practitioners in the team. I have been involved in the Transcathether Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) service since its inception and organised the first new generation ‘Edwards TAVI’ in the UK.

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

One of the joys of working in research is the constant opportunity to learn about new potential ways of treating our patients. Having a role that is both research and clinical allows the research we perform to be fully integrated within our clinical services.

My other interest is education of our nurses and allied health professionals. I am on the programme committee for both EuroPCR and London Valve PCR and therefore able to influence the topics and activities we offer nurses and allied health professionals at these conferences and events, all currently being held online.

The last six months have provided me with another opportunity for me as during the height of the COVID pandemic, I was asked to be the lead research nurse in the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) for COVID studies. I can honestly say this was the steepest learning curve of my career having not working in ITU since 1994. It was one of the most stressful things I have done but also one of the most rewarding.

What do you think the future holds for research nursing?

I think the future of research nursing has never been more exciting. There are a lot of opportunities for nurses interested in research whether they want to conduct their own research study or be involved in delivery of clinical trials. Research nursing can really make a difference to our patients outcomes and quality of life. 

A message for anyone considering a career in research nursing?

Come and speak to one of the many research nurses in the Trust. See if you can arrange a day to shadow one of the nurses. I can honestly say a career in research will never be boring.