Why I’ll never underestimate research again

Author:Sophie Roberts

Author: Sophie Roberts

Second-year student children's nurse studying at the University of Salford

My name is Sophie and I am a second-year student children’s nurse studying at the University of Salford. I recently completed a six-week placement at the NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH). However, before my placement, I didn’t know of its existence…

So, what is the Manchester Clinical Research Facility at RMCH?

The Clinical Research Facility (CRF) is a fantastic unit. They complete numerous research studies in many different areas of medicine in order to better understand diseases and test new treatments. Part of this is ensuring that new drugs are safe and effective to use in children and young people. This gives hope that over time better treatment outcomes will be available.

Previous to my placement I was unsure what to expect. Although I was trying my hardest to be open-minded, I was worried that it would be a rather ‘boring’ placement. How wrong was I? Instead, it turned out to be the most interesting and educative placement experience that I have had.

Every day at the CRF is different

They run so many different trials, and work with children of all ages; so holistic family-centred care is at the heart of everything they do. Children at the CRF often have extremely rare or life-limiting illnesses; for instance, Wolman’s disease, which is a type of Lysosomal acid lipase deficiency. Children with this disease usually fail to grow at the expected rate for their age and as the disease progresses it can cause life-threatening liver dysfunction or liver failure. So, research into conditions like this is so important.

Conducting these trials involves clinical days, where things run very similarly to a ward – completing nursing assessments, giving treatments and monitoring clinical observations.

Then there can be administration days, giving staff time to prepare for upcoming studies. This makes the CRF an excellent place to learn and broaden knowledge of various specialties, such as rare metabolic diseases, dermatology and immunology.

I have learned a lot from this placement; especially about rare diseases which I had never heard of, and the extensive regulations involved in testing new drugs before they can be licensed. This made me think a lot about how many ‘common’ drugs we use today, which we often take for granted, and how they once had to go through a similar process. This will help me in many aspects of my future nursing career as I now have a much higher understanding and appreciation of the common drugs and treatments which are used on a daily basis.

A great placement

The CRF staff are very welcoming, and they are amazing at what they do. They are highly skilled and knowledgeable, helping me to develop my clinical skills and achieve my medicines administration competencies. They always offer a lot of support and are great at making you feel part of the team. This makes it a great placement to be student. I hope that I can be as good a nurse as each member of the team are one day!

The most enjoyable aspect of my placement would have to be meeting so many wonderful children and their families who make the studies possible. These children are so inspiring and their spirits lift the mood of everyone on the facility. This made my experience even more rewarding.

Research is so incredibly important and can often be forgotten. Before my placement it was an aspect of nursing which I had not even thought about. Due to my placement I now have a strong interest in the research field and I would definitely consider a future career in research nursing. It’s great to be a part of something that could make such a big difference to the world.

Seeing first-hand what a huge difference these trials made to the children and families on the unit was very rewarding, and I would love to experience this again as a registered nurse.

My advice to fellow students

If I could give other students any advice prior to a placement at Manchester Clinical Research Facility, it would be to be open minded about the learning experience – just because it is research doesn’t mean that it will be ‘dull’ or ‘boring’, which is a common perception. It is actually quite the opposite! Be self-motivated and be ready to learn. Throw yourself into it and you can get a lot out!