IND2023: Francisca Fernandes, Senior Clinical Research Nurse at Wythenshawe Hospital

To celebrate International Nurses Day 2023, Senior Clinical Research Nurse, Francisca Fernandes shares her research journey and hopes to inspire others to consider a path in research.

Francisca Fernandes, Senior Clinical Research Nurse

From the beginning

I have been a nurse for more than 20 years, initially training in India and moving to the UK in 2002 to further my nursing career. In June 2022, I joined Research and Innovation, as Clinical Research Nurse in the Thoracic Oncology Research Hub (TORCH) at Wythenshawe Hospital, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT). TORCH supports ground-breaking research studies into lung cancer and within the team of doctors, nurses and specialist roles, we share expertise, learning and best practice.

Before working in research, I was an intensive care nurse and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) specialist nurse for seven years in Cardiothoracic Critical Care Unit (CTCCU) at Wythenshawe Hospital.

Prior to this I spent three years working on a respiratory ward and 10 years within community nursing in geriatric, dementia and palliative care.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked on the frontline, caring for the country’s sickest patients in critical condition. All patients in CTCCU received mechanical ventilation support, renal replacement therapy and were treated with ECMO. This specialised treatment uses a cutting-edge technique to take over patients’ heart and lung functions to allow these organs to recover. For many of our COVID-19 patients, this treatment saved their life.

Working long hours wearing full PPE (personal protective equipment) was a challenge and with visiting restrictions in place, we cried seeing patients fight for their life, with no family members beside them. During this time, we were their family, and as nurses, we encouraged each other to stay strong and get through the shift. It was teamwork like no other and I am so proud to have been a part of the amazing team at CTCCU.  It has taught me many things, personally and professionally, such as not to be afraid of challenges. We need to identify our passion in the midst of challenges, stay focused, and persevere until the task is completed.

When the first COVID-19 vaccine was introduced, this sparked my interest in research. I could see first-hand the impact it had and the relief and satisfaction it brought into my life prompted me to pursue a career in research.

My path in research

It was an interesting, challenging, and exciting start to my path in research.  I started my career by getting involved in two studies – qUEST and iDx Lung study, which are both supported by The National Institute for Health and Care Research Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.

The purpose of the qUEST study is to use the information and CT scans that are routinely collected as part of the Manchester Lung Health Checks programme for research. This allows us to look for ways to improve the service, so that we can help more people in the future. The iDx Lung study is to find out whether studying samples of blood, or tissue from inside the nose, of those attending a routine lung health check, can help us to detect lung cancers more easily.

I have now joined a new team as a Senior Clinical Research Nurse in the Collaborative Research Hub, Wythenshawe Hospital.

As a clinical research nurse, it is important to pay close attention to detail, comprehend the principles of informed consent, be well organised, a good team player and communicate effectively. I started to take lead on these studies on the NHS mobile unit for Manchester Lung Health Checks programme, where we had to communicate and encourage people to take part.

What I found amazing, was to see so many people willing to contribute to research. Most of them want to give back to NHS by taking part in the study. They are so thankful and continue to express their appreciation towards NHS because of the pandemic. What I have learnt in this role is that research would be impossible without the participation of these amazing people in the community.

Why you should join research

Research is the only evidence-based method of determining whether a new approach to treatment or care is better than the current standard, and is essential for diagnosing, treating, preventing, and curing disease. Within my role and as part of my team, we play an important part in providing clinical research, which in turn, enhances patient care and treatment methods. For this reason, our work is extremely fulfilling and rewarding. I am excited to be a part of research at MFT and look forward to contributing more as my career progresses, with my skills and previous expertise. I have a particular interest in reaching out to the community and mentoring new starters and students in research.

For anyone considering a career in research, I would encourage them to do so as it opens so many new doors for opportunities and discoveries.

Celebrating International Nurses Day 2023

International Nurses Day is a special day as it represents me. I travelled across the world to show my passion for nursing, and like many other nurses, I constantly strive to make a difference, going above and beyond to improve someone’s life whenever and wherever possible.

Today is a day of celebration on which all our efforts are honoured and recognised globally. I will be celebrating with my colleagues at work and would like to wish all my fellow nurses a Happy International Nurses Day!