A day in the life of a….Clinical Academic Research Nurse

In the second blog of our ‘day in the life of….’ series, Maria Drummond (@mdrumm88), a Clinical Studies Officer with ENRICH Scotland and PhD student in Nursing and Healthcare at University of Glasgow talks about her current role and her experiences of a clinical academic nurse pathway.

(1) What is your job title and your main role/responsibilities?
I’m Senior Clinical Studies Officer for ENRICH Scotland. ENRICH Scotland, which was established in 2021, is a network of care home staff, residents and researchers from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds who aim to facilitate the design and delivery of research to improve quality of life, treatments and care for care home residents and co-chaired by Dr Emma Law and Dr Susie Shenkin. ENRICH Scotland currently has two main branches of activity; the first is a network of “research ready” care homes; and the second is a research forum of academics, researchers, students, and professionals all with an interest in, or currently undertaking care home research. I’m the only person on the team who is working on it full time, so my role is a mix of national co-ordinator and team lead for (soon to be) four clinical studies officers. Ultimately, we want to streamline care home research, sharing expertise and opinion to improve the lives of people who live in care homes.

(2) How did you get into your current role/line of work?
I’ve only been in this role since May, prior to that I worked in district nursing for almost ten years (and was a care home nurse before that). Since October 2017 I’ve also been following a clinical academic pathway through a PhD at the University of Glasgow. My PhD research is related to understanding and improving support for caregivers of people with life-limiting conditions from Glasgow. This was a funded studentship from NHSGG&C and has been a fantastic opportunity to grow professionally, academically, and personally, but it wasn’t actually part of any professional master plan.

My interest in research was sparked while studying advanced practice in district nursing. Although I had decided that after obtaining the specialist practitioner qualification in district nursing, I would take a break from university learning, I found myself at a pretty confusing crossroads. I was a very experienced community staff nurse, but a novice district nurse and independent prescriber, and I was overwhelmed at the level of responsibility ahead as a district nurse. Thankfully, it was through research and levelling up my evidence-based practice that I was able to build my confidence. This ultimately pushed me towards deciding that I wanted to continue developing these areas of interest within a more formal process.

(3) Can you tell us what a typical day in your role/line of work involves?
The ENRICH Scotland team are based across Scotland so I’m primarily working from home at the moment, but I do team visits in Dundee and Edinburgh when necessary. The job is very flexible and I manage my own diary. I like to start the week with a long to-do list, add to it as the week goes on and work as long as necessary to get everything done. So far, I find myself working longer hours at the start of the week in case anything unexpected with childcare or the pandemic pops up. Usually, I start early morning just after I’ve dropped my son off at nursery. I’m very reliant on my electronic diary and I like to start my day reviewing any meetings, writing a short itinerary for what I want to discuss at them and checking my emails. Then it’s usually onto meetings.

The main research project we’re working on at the moment is PROTECT-CH which is a drug trial related to the management of covid-19 outbreaks in care homes. It’s vital there’s a plan in place if/when covid-19 outbreaks occur in this environment so it’s a really important and exciting trial to be part of. As one of the co-ordinators for the Scottish part of the trial, I attend regular meetings to discuss the logistics and the research nurse role within them.

Because more generally, I’m tasked with improving the processes around care home research, I also spend a bit of time reaching out to and meeting with researchers and care home staff interested in care home research. I also enjoy writing and luckily there’s quite a lot of writing to be done around our policies and documentation, as well as finding opportunities (like this!) to write about and promote our work. I’ll get round to this type of work after meetings. It feels great to end the day with a few ticks off the to-do list.

(4) What would you say are the ‘best’ or most rewarding parts of your role?
As a novice researcher, the most enjoyable part of my role is learning about all the really interesting research that’s happening in care homes by reading publications and meeting researchers. I’m also passionate about addressing data gaps and helping marginalised groups have better access to research. Care home residents, staff and their friends and families are vital parts of our communities but have historically been overlooked in research. So, the most rewarding thing about my job is being able to play a small part in addressing this issue.

(5) What advice would you give to others who would like to follow a similar pathway?
Have an open mind and get involved in any research or quality improvement projects that are happening in your area. If you’re studying at post-graduate level, then reach out to others who have done similar stuff and build up a solid peer support. By participating in research or QI, I guarantee you’ll find your job so much more interesting and the more people you meet the more opportunities you’ll have.

Maria is a clinical academic research nurse working as a Senior Clinical Studies Officer for ENRICH Scotland (@EnrichScotland).  Maria is currently working on the PROTECT-CH Trial (@ProtectTrial) and is in the final stages of her PhD in Nursing & Healthcare at University of Glasgow (@UofGNurse, @UofGMVLS). 

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