Fran Mada, one of our nurses, tells us about how she got into research

For the first time in 23 years of general and mental health nursing, I have moved away from the bedside, and into the exciting world of research. This is my story.

I started my nursing career as a registered general nurse, before moving into mental health nursing. It was while doing my MSc while working in mental health that I learnt more about how research can benefit society, and how I could also be involved as a participant or professional.

A few things (some myths and some realities) still bothered me as I considered making the jump to being a research nurse. At first, I did not understand how people work in a research department: I thought everyone was forever in front of a computer, and that there was lots of paperwork and little contact with patients. I am very much a ‘clinic’ person; I love working with patients and their carers, so where would this leave me?

On top of this, the idea of fixed term contracts worried me, and I liked the security of a permanent job that most clinical jobs provide.

I also liked working in a team, and I thought that research might be a pretty solitary occupation.

Nevertheless, in 2014, I decided to take the plunge and put all the theory from my BSc and MSc into practice. I took on a one-year contract and joined a research team that working with care homes. I quickly realised that yes, just like clinical work, research does need documents and computers, but just a little bit more!

Joining the Clinical Research Facility

Then in 2015, I joined the Oxford cognitive health Clinical Research Facility (CRF) and I have no plans of leaving yet!

Before I became a researcher, I didn’t realise that I have many transferable skills and knowledge from my previous nursing jobs that I can utilise in experimental medicine nursing.

In addition, contrary to my belief of every person and computer for themselves in research, I now work autonomously for part of my role, and very much in a team for the rest. Every team member is available and accessible at any time face to face, on email or on the phone.

Just like my ward teams have handovers at every shift change, CRF has catch-up meetings every morning, and when necessary, weekly and monthly meetings too.

There is always someone to consult with when unsure of anything, or just for support. The delivery of high quality studies in my department is a result of good teamwork, a multi-disciplinary and multi-professional team and this is something that I am part of.

Valuing education and training

I value education and training and since joining experimental medicine nursing, I have become part of a group of highly skilled and competent professionals. There is protected time for training scheduled monthly.

I have learnt many new things which help me be a better clinician, such as in-depth knowledge of protocols that enhance patients’ safety when they are participating in studies. Like in my old job, I still carry out risk assessments, and regularly take consent from patients/ participants entering research studies, learning to use good safeguarding and clinical practice guidance.

My work is to make sure the highest quality research, with robust and accurate results, can be achieved in order for the best possible and safest care, treatment or therapy to be available for people with mental health disorders.

As an experimental medicine nurse, I feel like I am working where it begins, asking what works, what could work, sometimes developing the therapy, and always pushing towards the horizon for better treatment and new knowledge.

My standards haven’t changed: person centred care and patients are still at the heart of all my work. Being a research nurse helps me be a better nurse.

By Fran Mada
Research Nurse