Working in mental health research
"I think the benefit to the patient is my favourite part of this job."
Claudia Hurducas is the acting Research Implementation Manager at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.
She was previously a senior research assistant. Claudia manages a team of eight clinical research assistants who conduct research in mental health services across Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.
What does your job involve?
“My job now is threefold. Firstly, it involves managing the clinical research assistants, keeping an eye on recruitment and working with study teams. Secondly, it includes looking for new studies and new opportunities to implement and deliver them and keeping in touch with our local clinical research network. Thirdly, it involves raising awareness of research in the trust and supporting clinicians to become study investigators.”
What’s your favourite part of working in mental health research?
“A few years ago an article came out about how people in research active trusts have significantly better clinical outcomes. I found that extremely important because all the research we do is to improve patient outcomes, treatments and quality of life. A lot of people with mental health problems don’t have much social interaction, so even just seeing a researcher is a benefit. I think the benefit to the patient is my favourite part of this job.”
What types of studies are you currently working on?
“We always have quite a wide variety because we’re such an innovative team. We use that resource to get as many and as varied studies as we can. We have everything from questionnaire studies looking at opinions and quality of life to hands-on medication trials. We’ve got commercial studies looking at new pharma treatments and technological devices that can aid a treatment to studies that are looking at psychological therapies. We’re able to give such varied interventions in our studies and to target such varied diagnoses such as psychosis, treatment resistant depression, bipolar and mania. We can offer a wide variety of patients a wide variety of treatments.”
Which study do you find most interesting and why?
“I think all of them are important and they all have scientific value, but the one that I find most interesting is a study of a digital product that aids a treatment. It’s looking at people diagnosed with psychosis and looking to improve their rates of taking medication and supporting them remembering to take the medication. They are given a patch they wear to pick up on a sensor in their medication, which connects to their phone to let them know if they have taken it. I find that so interesting because in this digital era, this is a very good example of how clinical care is trying to align to it.”
What do you enjoy most about working in a research team?
“We’re a very united team and we have each other’s backs. I feel in our team, everybody’s quite relaxed and open with each other. We can always brainstorm and play to our strengths, so just having this opportunity to get to know them and know their strengths is the most important thing.”
What would you say to patients about taking part in research?
“First of all, I would remind them that not all studies provide direct benefits to them, but all studies aim to contribute to a better future and a better tomorrow. There will be a bit of research for every single one of us, we just need to be aware of it. Just don’t be afraid to approach your clinician or a research assistant to talk about the opportunities, because you might find that it’s actually fun to take part. You get to see someone who isn’t part of your usual team, access novel treatments that you might not have access to otherwise and be a part of a big change for the future.”
What are your hopes for the future of mental health research?
“My biggest hope is that it’s fully embedded in clinical practice where everybody is given the opportunity to know about it. I don’t want it to be a postcode lottery anymore because we know some areas are more embedded that others, which is not fair for some patients. I want research being offered as part of normal routine care.”
Is there anything else you would like to add?
“I’m really proud of our team, they’ve had a few big achievements that I’d like to recognise. We’ve had two UK first participants for two commercial studies this year and for one of them we’re currently the top recruiting site. We’ve also had a big staff turnover and that hasn’t impacted on the quality of our research, so I’m proud of all the research assistants in my team.”
For more information on mental health research at Oxford Health, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: 22 October 2018