‘Working in research is absolutely remarkable’

Jason Domingo

Clinical research charge nurse Jason Domingo works in the NIHR Cambridge Clinical Research Facility, where he is involved in a wide variety of clinical trials.

What research are you working on?

I work on and support various clinical trials after they have left the lab, which test the safety of a new drug or treatment on patients.

Typically, this part of the process has four ‘Phases’ and I have worked on all four, involving many different groups of patients and for different funders and sponsors, including NIHR, universities, commercial and charities.

In 2019, we set up the Cambridge Clinical Research Centre (CCRC) as the first clinical research facility to be designated as a Yellow Fever Vaccine Centre.

What do you do day-to-day?

On a daily basis, I facilitate the smooth running of the unit, ensuring that all the research participants and staff are safe, equipment and materials are working and ready to go and that the environment is health-and-safety compliant.

I also meet and welcome the day’s research participants, to help them feel comfortable and orientated.

This will be followed by going through the study procedures, which may include cannulation or venepuncture, sample collection and processing at different time points, safe handling and administration of novel drug treatments and measuring patient vital signs before, during and after treatment.

I’ll also record and document any adverse events experienced by patients. Overall, I provide high standards and continuity of care for participants during the research study while maintaining lines of communication with clinical staff.

The role is in effect a vital link connecting the research study team, the CCRC and research participants. As research nurse I provide relevant information and advice for holistic support where necessary and refer to the multi-disciplinary team where appropriate.

How do you work with / support researchers?

We are keen to show all new researchers around the CCRC building and respective units, so that they feel welcomed and are introduced to the facilities, processes and standard operating procedures.

We also provide clinical skills trainings such as cannulation, venepuncture and laboratory-associated skills to maximize their research potential.

For all our researchers, I liaise and collaborate with them at all times to make sure that each study visit is seamlessly undertaken.

Which other research teams do you work / liaise with on a regular basis?

Working in research is multi-modal that requires coordination and collaboration with multi-disciplinary teams.

On a regular basis, any protocol-related concerns or queries, including patient safety, are communicated to respective research study teams. When necessary, we bring in other teams, for example MRI or Clinical Trials Dispensary, for guidance. We’ll also make referrals to specialty teams if we think it beneficial to the patient’s holistic condition.

What is it like being a research nurse?

Whatever the nursing field, patient safety has utmost priority.

Since being a research nurse is a specialised career, you need extensive training depending on the study being undertaken. You’re involved right from the start – from identifying potential patients, to recruiting them, to reporting any adverse event. At all times you also need to make sure you adhere to clinical and research governance, Good Clinical Practice guidelines and Trust policies and procedures.

The need to be accurate and precise really tests your attention to detail! You need to really understand various aspects of health, diagnosis and treatments to help provide evidenced-based healthcare delivery and so improve patient outcome.

Why did you want to work in research?

After more than a decade of nursing work experience in the Philippines, Oman and the UK, I wanted to develop my career in research which I believe is truly trans-cultural. It opens great opportunities to learn new knowledge and clinical skills, and no two days are alike.

Working in research challenges and inspires me, as it allows me to gain hands-on-experience in contributing to new ideas, processes and treatment, with their potential to make a great difference to the community.

What opportunities are there as a research nurse?

It gives you access to a wide range of personal and professional development, such as training, conferences, symposia and master classes, and even publishing research works.

For example, I disseminated the results of my own project work through research posters and public presentation, and was granted an NIHR / Health Education England (HEE) award to study clinical academic research, trial design and data management through the University of Lincoln.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Believe it or not, it is the opportunity to touch my patients’ lives in my own simple ways, and to be able to contribute to new knowledge, treatments and evidenced-based healthcare services.

Working in research is absolutely remarkable. I take part in contributing and making a difference and breakthrough that could impact in the future’s healthcare. To be able to witness and be part of the research journey of each participant make me feel fulfilled and rewarded.

What challenges do you face as a research nurse?

Recruiting research participants based on eligibility criteria and keeping them enrolled until they complete the whole study.

In addition, skills acquired in non-research areas may not be used, leading to skill decay.

Why is your role important?

Every role and every member of the team has a vital part to play and is equally important. Research nurses are at the front lines of the research process. We serve as instrument and catalyst for transformation and translation of clinical trials. We stand as patient advocate to ensure that they are all safeguarded, and rights are protected at all times throughout their research journey.

The fact that my role is all about research – which is part of everyone’s life – allows me to further develop the skills relevant to clinical practice.

I have also been an advocate of providing health teaching to the recipients of nursing care, because knowledge has a vital role to play in their wellness. If they are fully informed they will feel empowered.

What work have you been doing during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Apart from continuously supporting the non-stop studies, I have been directly involved in front-line operations for Covid-19 clinical research studies and trials, working with others across the Trust to set up, plan and deliver them, including the SAMBA project, the TACTIC platform studies and national vaccination and NIHR BioResource studies.

As the Trust’s Venepuncture and Cannulation Assessor, I also train redeployed internal and external staff who need these skills for either Covid or non-stop research projects. Finally, I have continued to mentor new staff in clinical research, to ensure that they carry out the procedures safely and in accordance to standards.

What advice would you give to other nurses who are thinking of working in research?

A career in research opens up great opportunities to develop personally and professionally. It expands your horizon and visions, you’re part of a global collaborative effort working for the future healthcare of us all.

There may be some challenges to face as the work is not easy but overall, it is interesting, fun and rewarding. It is about time to explore the world of research, and make your voice and contributions be sensed and valued.

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