Jess Cumberland shares a glimpse into her day-to-day work at Quotient Sciences Nottingham, UK clinic.
How did you get into clinical research?
I worked as an Emergency Nurse in an NHS hospital before pursuing a career change to software development. Unfortunately, I lost that job during the pandemic, and I was searching for new opportunities to get back into nursing when I found an opportunity to join Quotient Sciences as a Clinical Research Nurse. Even though I had taken a year out of nursing, I found it easy to transition back into a healthcare environment. Quotient Sciences’ training and facilities helped refresh my clinical skills quickly. I gained new clinical research experience at Quotient Sciences that enabled me to return to a role within the NHS as a Cancer Research Nurse, where I worked for six months, but I ended up returning to Quotient Sciences as I preferred working in Phase I clinical research.
What does a Clinical Research Nurse do?
As a Clinical Research Nurse, I collect data from volunteers by doing ECGs, checking vital signs, and doing blood tests. Some complex studies have specialist procedures, such as spirometry. I also administer the investigational medicinal products (IMPs) to the volunteers in many different forms, such as tablets, IVs, subcutaneous injections etc. Nurses have extra responsibilities, such as completing vaccination training, giving infection control training to staff, and generally overseeing volunteer safety and ensuring best practice is being maintained in the clinic.
What is the first thing you do when you arrive on site for your shift?
On a normal day, I get to work at about 6:50 am and look at the schedule board, which tells me what study I’ll be working on that day. I could be working on multiple studies in one day. It’s then time to make a cuppa. At 7:00 am, I get a handover from the night shift staff to discuss what is happening on the study today to get an idea of how the day is going to play out.
What is a typical day like for a Clinical Research Nurse?
After the handover, I might cannulate and dose a group of volunteers. Dosing can take about an hour, sometimes longer. After that, I may do some rounds, which could involve taking an ECG or checking vital signs and carry out clinical procedures. In the afternoon, on a long day, I usually act as the shift lead (like a charge nurse) and coordinate the unit.
What do you enjoy most about your job? Are there any social aspects to your day?
I work in a lovely team, who are very social. We’re a close team and we enjoy going to the canteen together or sitting outside during our breaks.
The team I work with have a great sense of humour. I’m able to work on different projects and different types of studies, so my workload tends to fluctuate, but the people I work with help me get through the day. I was recently promoted to Lead Nurse, which allows me to get more involved in the study set-up phase and help the Senior Nurse more, giving me more experience that will help me progress my career.
What is the hardest part about being a Clinical Research Nurse?
When I first started at Quotient Sciences, the hardest part about the role was adjusting from working with patients to healthy volunteers. It is a completely different set-up going from working in a hospital to a Phase I clinic, but the training that I have received and my team helped me get up to speed quickly. The pace of work is also different when transitioning from a hospital to a Phase I clinic. You have to work to strict deadlines and the day is structured with several studies happening at once. Adapting to the different pace can take time, but there is lots of support available to help. Finally, I have to say that I’ve been a nurse for 7 years now, and I still struggle to get up early! I’m just not a morning person!
What opportunities can this type of job lead to?
Getting into healthcare research can be difficult, but Quotient Sciences has given me the skills that I needed to make a successful transition. It’s an exciting time to join the company because the company is growing and global. A role as a Clinical Research Nurse can lead to roles within project management, a Clinical Trial Coordinator, or a Clinical Research Associate. It could also lead to academic roles, such as lecturing at a university.
What advice would you give to somebody considering a career in clinical research/nursing?
Acute nursing experience with previous experience in immediate life support (ILS) is beneficial but not necessary. If you know you want to work in research, there is no reason why you can’t come and join a Phase I clinic. To be successful in the role, it’s important to be proactive, be inquisitive, have good attention to detail, and be a self-motivated learner.