Milton Keynes research nurse discusses pandemic role change

A nurse from Milton Keynes University Hospital (MKUH) has opened up about changes to the hospital’s research delivery, and her personal role, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to the MKUH website, Louise Mew, a surgical research nurse, revealed interesting insights into how the hospital has adapted and the challenges faced by her colleagues.

Discussing her role change over the past nine months, she said: “When the inpatient admission rate began rising due to COVID-19, I was eager to help and contribute in whatever way I could.

“A lot of usual research activity was paused in March. As expected, some of our team were redeployed to other areas and others, including myself, started working exclusively on the COVID-19 research trials.

“As a research nurse who usually has some background knowledge of the conditions the studies are focused on…to suddenly have that focus shifted into an area which no one had experience in was incredibly frightening.

“New information surrounding COVID-19, and how to care for it, including treatments, infection control precautions and personal protective equipment guidelines, were being announced almost daily.

“I learned to rely on my colleagues like never before in terms of information and support. The research team became much more visual in MKUH than ever before, as we were approaching patients in wards and areas that we had previously not attended.”

MKUH is part of the NIHR Local Clinical Research Network for Thames Valley and South Midlands and its network conducts and provides research across 30 clinical specialities.

As one of 500 staff, Louise spoke further of her experiences during the pandemic, and what she learnt, adding: “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of research in healthcare and the NHS in a way rarely seen before. Healthcare workers have pushed their boundaries and stepped out of their comfort zones daily in order to care for COVID-19 patients and the knowledge and experience gained in this respect has been invaluable in moving forward through this difficult period.

“Working on the COVID-19 research projects throughout the pandemic has provided me with skills and knowledge I would never have had the opportunity to develop otherwise.

Louise also touched on how patient recruitment for research trials has had to adapt, stating: “Inevitably, the pandemic has drastically changed the way we are delivering and managing research with the hospital environment. The traditional face-to-face method of approaching and recruiting patients to research studies has needed to be adapted and modified to limit person-to-person contact and prevent additional trips to the hospital or clinical settings.

“Many of the research trials I work on have brought out amendments considering this, including postal consent, verbal consent over the phone with witnesses or virtual electronic consent.”

However, despite the focus on COVID-19, Louise also noted that research in other areas has continued, concluding: “COVID-19 research remains the priority, however, studies in other speciality areas have slowly started recruiting again. Despite COVID-19 admission rates rising again in October, many surgical studies remained open with the understanding that research activity in these areas may be reduced.

“I believe I am one of those lucky people who love their job. I am very passionate about the research projects I work on and firmly believe in their importance and value in developing treatments and healthcare.”

The full interview with Louise is available to view on the MKUH NHS website.