Clinical Research Nurses Play an Important Role In Cancer Treatment Innovations
When we think of clinical research, we may picture doctors and scientists collecting data or patients trying new treatment regimens. However, there’s an essential element behind every clinical research study that’s missing from this picture: clinical research nurses.
I believe that every nurse who practices at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is a “scientist” by virtue of the patient populations we serve and our focus on evidence-based practice. But I wish to highlight the role of a particular subset of our nurses—those who work in collaboration with our principal investigators in the design and delivery of new approaches of care in our clinical research settings.
While these nurses perform many of the same duties as other nurses, such as providing hands-on care to patients, administering medication and maintaining records, clinical research nurses have additional, vital responsibilities. Often, patients who enter clinical trials are treated with drugs and procedures that may have side effects or risks still being studied by the clinical research team. So, the observations and assessments that clinical research nurses make are incredibly critical. They are the eyes and ears of clinical research. Sometimes, they’re seeing things for the first time and have to be intuitive on how to manage different side effects.
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A clinical research nurse’s duty starts well before a patient comes in. They must know the clinical trials inside and out and be prepared for whatever care might be involved. This is done through ongoing research and specialized training.
By thoroughly understanding clinical trial protocols, clinical research nurses become important educational resources for their patients. They can share what symptoms to look for and tips on when to seek additional medical advice. For example, some of the drugs that we’re now using change and regulate the immune system. A patient may get symptoms that they might otherwise self-diagnose as a cold, but these symptoms could actually be a sign of something much more serious. Nurses are always watching for these symptoms and instructing patients on what to look out for.
Like all nursing specialties, there are many rewarding aspects of working with patients entered in clinical studies. I feel that most clinical nurses would agree that it can be an incredible experience to work with many of these patients, who from a very altruistic perspective, are allowing themselves to participate in these therapies with the hope of making a difference for future patients.
I have so much respect for all of our clinical research nurses and applaud the invaluable work they do.