Following a summer placement in 2017, BSc student Paris Baptiste shares her insight into clinical research at the university of Reading and Royal Berkshire Hospital
During my time on placement at Royal Berkshire Hospital and Thames Valley Clinical Trials unit at the University of Reading I gained an insight into research carried out in both a clinical and non-clinical setting and the overlapping pressures they face. I was able to see how important research is to the hospital by the dedicated and enthusiastic staff they have.
The Royal Berkshire Hospital is ranked 2nd in the Thames Valley and South Midlands Network. Despite not having a medical background everyone was very helpful and committed to ensuring I gained the most from my placement. I came to realise that the majority of research carried out at the hospital is funded by the National Institute for Health research (NIHR). However, some is funded commercially by private drug or device companies which meant diverse areas of research are being covered. I spent time in various departments seeing how research differs in each. I was also given the opportunity to see the various stages of clinical research. This is something that many people involved in clinical research in a commercial company do not have the benefit of experiencing. Which I believe restricts their wider understanding. This is something I lacked in my skills developed from my year placement in a pharmaceutical research company.
Throughout my time on placement I spent time in Radiology, Theatre, Intensive care unit, Pain management unit, Medical Physics, Research and development and the Clinical Trials unitAs part of my time in the hospital I was able to accompany research nurses and assistants to recruit patients and carry out their follow up visits with patients already recruited. Some of which involved taking blood samples and some verbal consultations. When recruiting patients, it’s important to explain all the information to the patients before gaining their consent. Sometimes the patients we visited suffered from conditions such as dementia so it was important to communicate to these patients in a different way to ensure they fully understand. Despite not gaining informed consent personally I was able to see first-hand from the nurses the level of oral communication skills needed to be successful in research with such a range of patients with different levels of understanding. On the other hand, working with medical professionals and academics I often found it difficult to understand medical terms. It was important for me to communicate effectively that I did not understand something and they were happy to explain in non-medical terms for me. If I did not speak up initially I would have gained less from my experience.
Whilst spending time at Thames Valley Clinical Trials unit I was shown the standard operating procedures (SOPs) they follow. Due to the new collaboration between the unit, Royal Berkshire hospital and Berkshire NHS Trust Foundation many of the SOPs had an inconsistent format. I was given the task of reading these and interpreting the information then taking the relevant parts and rewording it to fit the TVCTU standard format. I had to ensure the SOPs were well-structured, concise and clearly presented. It was important I understood the information and included the necessary parts as these were documents many people would be following in the future. I was able to develop my written skills here using language and technical terms I would not normally use.
Being exposed to various departments I was able to identify new areas I found of interest. I quickly realised I was keen to find out more about the clinical research in paediatrics at the hospital. I communicated this with my managers and from this I got the opportunity to spend time in the paediatrics and neonatal unit. Alongside this in my first few weeks I was given the opportunity to complete my Good Clinical Practice trainingwhich is the international standard in which all clinical research must follow. This was an online training course explaining the procedures and processes to follow when being involved in research.
Not only did I learn a great deal about the process of clinical research I also was able to become familiar with various clinical areas. My confidence in my own ability and also approaching people with different expertise grew which meant I was able to build helpful and friendly contacts. I gained exciting new skills and confidence in my career path and what I need to do to get there. I developed and gained skills and am now able to identify those that would be needed in future employment. Before my placement I had a strong interest in Medical Physics. However, spending time in the department and seeing their work on a day-to-day basis I can now confidently rule this out as a career path as I know it is no longer something I find interesting. On the other hand, I am now aware I prefer a busy and changing working environment compared to an office facing role I previously experienced on my year placement. I have been exposed to the possible career path of medicine which would involve post graduate study and am now confident I have the skills relevant to be successful. Having previously thought this was no longer an option.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunities given to me during my placement and the enthusiastic people I met along the way.