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In celebration of International Nurses Day, Bernadette Mundy, a Senior Clinical Research Nurse in our Clinical Trials Unit, shares her career experiences from nursing in community settings to working in clinical research.

Close up of nurses hands holding buccal cotton swab and test tube ready to collect DNA from the cells.

After I qualified as a nurse I worked on a gynaecology unit.  The nursing team worked on the ward and also ran an outpatient clinic. I absolutely loved my job, but as many health care workers have experienced, shift work and long, unsociable hours can take their toll.

When I was expecting my first child, I saw a job advertised for a general practice nurse.  I didn’t quite meet the criteria and I didn’t expect to be successful – especially as I was pregnant.  I was delighted to be offered the position and felt honoured to be given the opportunity.  As soon as I started, I knew that I had made the right decision.  The clinical skills and knowledge in primary care are very different from those required in secondary care.  There was a lot of training and I had a lot of new skills to develop.  Over time and with the support and encouragement of the GPs, I gradually developed the skills needed.  Time management is a whole new ball game in general practice! 

After a few very enjoyable years, I had a career break to raise my family.  Then in 2017 I completed a Return to Practice Course at Oxford Brookes University with the aim of returning to a career in practice nursing.  It was during this time that I got a chance to complete a placement on the Early Phase Clinical Trials Unit in the Churchill Hospital.  My eyes were opened to the world of research! The CTU was just about to launch the INVICTUS Trial and they were recruiting nurses.  After completing my Return to Practice training I began a 12-week fixed term contract as a Clinical Research Nurse with the CTU, working in general practices to recruit for the INVICTUS trial.  Almost seven years later and I’m still here! 

I have now worked on numerous studies in various community settings including GP surgeries, patient’s homes and long term care facilities. It is always inspiring and moving to work with research participants and hear them share the value they place on research and how they want to contribute to making a difference.  I will always remember one of the first studies I worked on in a residential care home. One of the older participants was celebrating his 103rd birthday. He told me that all his life he had tried to help people and now that he was 103 it wasn’t always so easy, but taking part in research was his way of helping and contributing to society.  

As with many involved in health care, the COVID pandemic changed the way that we work.  Many trials can now be delivered remotely and access to these trials can be more accessible.  Every day varies. Often I am involved in screening, recruiting and supporting participants through their research journey.  Some days I am planning study visits, attending meetings and entering data for follow-up notes reviews. Other days I am at research sites supporting and mentoring site staff in training and carrying out their research roles.  Every study is also different.  I love the study specific training that allows me the opportunity to learn new skills and often re-visit and develop old skills - spirometry training needed years previously for running asthma clinics in my GP practice and now needing to be up-dated for COPD and asthma studies. 

Since working as the Senior Research Nurse, I have got more involved in the study set-up phase, delivering study specific training to the team and providing training and support for research site staff. I have also delivered teaching for the MSc Clinical Trials Module.

Nursing is so much more than a job. It’s part of my identity – it’s part of who I am.  I feel extremely passionate about Research Nursing and the ongoing continued professional development that it supports. There are so many possibilities.  My advice to anyone is don’t limit yourself, embrace the opportunities that come your way and be proud to say ‘I am a nurse’.

Opinions expressed are those of the author/s and not of the University of Oxford. Readers' comments will be moderated - see our guidelines for further information.


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