As a Senior Clinical Research Nurse within the MFT R&I Vaccine Research Delivery Team, my role involves managing, coordinating and facilitating various vaccine research trials – including COVID-19 vaccines. I further work alongside colleagues to provide specialist research and clinical care for participants and patients enrolled in various research studies. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, and a Masters in Hospital Administration.
My research journey
Hailing from Tamil Nadu, a state in the southern part of India, research has always been one of my passions. My project on water pollution in local lakes, along with a friend of mine, during high school, won the best national presentation award during the National Young Environmentalists conference in 2002.
Later, as a student nurse, my scientific paper, ‘Mental illness – a risk for suicide’, won an award during a nursing conference in South India. Having moved to the UK in 2017, I initially worked as staff nurse in Acute Care at MFT. When a vacancy for a Clinical Research Nurse within the Cross-Speciality Team became available within the Trust in 2018, I enthusiastically applied for it and was successfully appointed to the role – which opened wider opportunities. There are a range of research specialities within R&I, and the purpose of the Cross Speciality Research Delivery Team was to provide support wherever it was needed across R&I, therefore ensuring continuity of research delivery and requiring adaptability and responsiveness from team members.
This role was very challenging and rewarding at the same time, as I was handling studies from various areas. I learnt the art of time management and was able to interact with staff and stakeholders worldwide.
I enjoyed the autonomy and dynamics of the role, and I was able to develop my leadership skills in research, including being the first author of a publication in medical journal and co-author for few other publications. I was also able to complete a level 7 diabetes short course module from the University of Leicester.
I am now part of the Trust’s Vaccine Research Delivery Team, where I work collaboratively with colleagues to deliver COVID-19 vaccine studies, such as ENSEMBLE 2, to which we consented the first global participant. We are also delivering other vaccine research, such as the EVERGREEN trial, the main aim of which is to see if the study vaccine can prevent disease by respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, in older adults.
Multi-faceted roles throughout my career
I began my career as an Emergency Nurse in India, and I was later a Nurse Educator, where I had the opportunity to teach nursing where most of the students were first-generation women graduates from the rural and underdeveloped areas.
Many of these nursing students were the first woman in their families to read or write. I was able to think out of the box and become involved in nursing education initiatives to reach out to their families and emphasis on the importance of women education. Inspired by my parents who were both dedicated teachers, I enjoy teaching too and I am the student link in my current role.
Working within various trials, I have worked with advanced medical technology including closed loop/artificial pancreas systems – a system which uses a smartphone app to automatically adjust the insulin delivery via a pump, based on the glucose readings from a continuous glucose sensor. Furthermore, as a Clinical Research Nurse, you are one of the small number of people involved from the initial stage of the cutting-edge medicines, and have a key role in providing an appropriate participant-focused research environment, in addition to ensuring high standard data quality and patient safety.
Recently, I received the opportunity to take up a secondment opportunity within our Trust’s Hive team as a Clinical Application Analyst for few months. Within that role, I was able to view things from a digital health perspective and bring in those transferrable skills back to the R&I.
When my pen speaks
I am keen on creative writing, and poetry is one way I let my thoughts out. Though many of my poems are in my mother tongue (Tamil), I also find it fascinating when my pen speaks in English too. My poem titled: ‘Be a part of research, be a part of change’ was acknowledged as the best poem in the R&I 2020: Year of the Nurse and Midwife poetry competition.
During these challenging days of the COVID-19 pandemic, research became many people’s ‘big hope’ – the way out of the pandemic through treatments or vaccines.
Research nurses sometimes go unnoticed in the vast world of healthcare, but they have a vital role in making our lives better and bringing new treatments into being. I wrote this poem to show the complexity, breadth and value of Clinical Research Nurses’ work. This poem was also published in the Journal of Research Nursing in 2021.
To me nursing is a divine call, and I am proud to be a Clinical Research Nurse. I encourage all nurses – especially internationally-recruited nurses who are keen to pursue a path in research – to follow their dream and pursue research nursing.
I would encourage anyone to consider a career within R&I, as the MFT R&I Team is one of the best teams in the Trust, where your contributions are recognised and valued. Moreover, R&I also has an embedded culture and commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).
Every day, I wake up with the words my mum said to me after my dad passed away:
“Find your dad in everyone you care for and do things as you would do it for him.”
Let me end with my favourite quote by Mother Teresa:
“Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
As a Clinical Research Nurse, I’m proud to be a part of small change in this big universe!