Date: 29 August 2017
Emily Bannister (left) is a research nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, who works on trauma and orthopaedics studies with research assistant, Emma Craig (right). One study they are working on is the World Hip Trauma Evaluation Five (WHiTE Five) study, which is looking into the best way to replace the ‘ball’ part of the ‘ball and socket’ joint of the hip after a fracture. The new ‘ball’ prosthetic is either fixed in place with a cement-like-substance or has a rough surface coating to hold in the thigh bone.
What does your day-to-day role involve?
Emma: “Every day is different because of the nature of trauma and orthopaedics as it can be an emergency service. We don’t plan for someone to break their hip or rupture their achilles tendon – it just happens. We have to screen the patient lists every days for those types of injuries.”
Emily: “There’s an element of excitement. Our bleep goes off and there’s someone listed for surgery that morning and we need to go and see them and discuss research with the patient and their relatives. We need to screen the patient to see whether they are eligible for the study, then approach them in hospital and explain the study and answer their questions. We collect data out of patient notes or questionnaires with the patients. It’s up to us to collate that data and put it into spreadsheets so that it’s manageable for the study sponsors who are going to use that data in their analysis to answer their research questions.”
Do you feel that you learn more from actively doing the job than reading through the information sheets?
Emma: “What’s really great about the job is that you are constantly learning. This can be from trial sponsors, educational events and nurses and doctors from the different wards and clinical areas that we visit. The patients also teach us new things on a daily basis. You never stop learning.”
Emily: “We’ll take on a new study and have full training from the sponsors [The University of Oxford, which is running WHiTE Five]. They teach us all about the study, data collection and treatments involved. When you approach the patients they can often come up with questions that you haven’t always anticipated. That’s when it is useful to have a good relationship with the clinical nurses and doctors as they will help you to find the answer.”
How do you find processing the data that goes with your research?
Emma: “We’re collecting and collating data for the sponsor to do whatever it is they need to do with it. We’re responsible for gathering the information and making sure it’s in the state that it should be and that all the questions they want answered are answered. We need to ensure we’ve got the information they need, which can sometimes bring its own challenges.”
Emily: “We have a big responsibility. A big part of our job is making sure that any data and numbers we collect are accurate for our sponsors ultimately to analyse and answer their research questions.”
What type of data do you deal with?
Emily: “We deal with both qualitative and quantitative data. We have to be very careful that we pay great attention to detail – crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.”
What’s the usual response you get when you ask patients to take part in research?
Emily: “It’s varied. For some of them, the idea of research is quite hard for them to take in. They need to understand the information before they can decide whether to take part or not. We do meet patients that completely understand the information that we’re giving them but sometimes they’re a little bit sceptical about taking part in research. They get the opinion that it’s not tested yet and think the doctor making the decision is the best way to proceed.”
Emma: “Generally people are open to having a discussion with us even if they’re unsure about taking part. It does depend on the study because some studies you’re asking more from a patient than other studies. With WHiTE Five you’re asking them to make a weighty decision. Some studies are nice and really simple and they might say ‘of course, it doesn’t take much for me to take part’, but it is very varied.”
What’s your favourite part of research?
Emma: “Patient contact is my favourite part of any research. I like that it keeps us busy because it can happen at any moment. Recently, we got in at 8:30am and had barely sat down when we were bleeped, and then we’d been up to the ward and consented someone all before nine o’clock.”
Emily: “At the end of all of that, we enjoy our jobs and we go home knowing that we’ve contributed towards improving our knowledge and ultimately improving healthcare and the standards of treatment.”
What is the most interesting thing you’ve found out through research?
Emily: “When I moved here and saw the number of studies that we currently do here at the Royal Berks, that was the most interesting thing for me, seeing how much we are striving towards improving and researching within an NHS hospital. I think that’s fantastic.”
Emma: “I think people often think of clinical research as drug trials but when you actually work within the research team you realise just how many very different types of research there are.”
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