Opportunities for nurses to get involved in colorectal research are increasing, both as clinical research nurses and more broadly, in providing a nursing voice and perspective across a wide range of multidisciplinary research studies.

Nurses involved in all fields of colorectal nursing can offer valuable insight into patient experiences and and pathways of care, drawing attention to potential problems, and suggesting solutions, at all stages of the research process. Many need encouragement and support not only to collaborate in bowel research, but also to consider research as a way through which they can explore and address the problems they encounter every day in their clinical practice.

BDRF (and the Association of Coloproctology Nurses’ group) are committed to building research capacity and confidence in colorectal nursing and to expose the personal and professional advantages for nurses of participating in bowel research

We spoke to Kathryn Slevin, a Research Practitioner in Manchester, about opportunities, specialisms and what can be done in the future:

BDRF: Could you start by telling us what your role is and what your main duties are?

KS: I currently work as a Research Practitioner. My main duties include identifying patient’s for example in MDT and clinics, recruiting patients to clinical trials and trial follow up.

BDRF: How did you first get into research and what attracted you to research in the first place?

KS: I spent 10 years working in Forensic Science having done a couple of small scale in house projects and I was looking for a career change. The role of a Research Technician/Practitioner was listed on NHS jobs and it sounded different and really interesting and I decided to apply.

BDRF: Can you tell us what colorectal nurses are doing in research work, and what issues their projects tend to focus on? What sort of work is currently going on out there?

KS: There is a wide variety of Colorectal Research Projects going on. Some studies look at whether certain types of imaging are better for cancer patients. Some look at which surgeries and treatments/interventions are better for patients, and other studies are building large databases of patients with a particular illness and trying to answer questions about that illness.

We also have other trials in set up that are trying to predict reoccurrences in colorectal cancer through a blood test. Some are also looking at exercise intervention studies to see the effects that exercise may have on the patient pre & post-surgery.

As a Research Nurse/Practitioner you may work across different areas and not just have one speciality e.g colorectal, oncology or surgery and indeed work on one or more of the sort of studies mentioned above.

BDRF: How many specialties are there within colorectal nursing and what role do they all play in different types of research project?

It really depends on the study. Sometimes a colorectal patient will need input from more than one Specialist Nurse due to the nature of the study and the pathway it follows, and a patient may be eligible for more than one study at once. Some of the Specialist Nurses are:

  • Colorectal Nurse Specialist
  • Stoma Nurses
  • IBD Nurses
  • Macmillan Nurses

BDRF: How does a nurse’s relationship with a patient differ from that of a surgeon? – Do you find patients are more willing to share their fears, hopes, embarrassments etc, and if so do you think this gives nurses a unique perspective on research questions?

KS: It will always be a Research Nurse/Practitioner that sees the patient for the follow up (sometimes with a doctor dependant on the trial follow up and clinic visits etc). From my experience our Nurses get to spend a bit more time with the patients and answer any further questions they have, so I suppose it’s within this time that people share and open up more about their lives and experiences and how they are feeling at that moment in time. So maybe a Research Nurse/Practitioner might have more of an insight into a patient and their journey than a surgeon would get to see.

BDRF:  Would perceptions of research being a realm of scientists, academics, surgeons etc put people in the nursing profession off from getting involved in research… And what can we do to change perceptions and get more nurses involved?

KS: I think some people do have this perception of research being boring and involving lots of paper work (more than they already have to do) and sitting in an office all day.

I think there is a need to dispel some of the myths that research is boring and when really it can be far from it (although there is no denying it does involve paperwork!). The Practitioner/Nursing roles can be anywhere including Wards, Theatres, A&E, and Maternity and even based in the Community and cover a wide variety of skills. We still have those fast paced studies where you have to act quickly if you want to get the patient into a study because the window of opportunity is so small.

I think raising the profile of Research within a trust is absolutely key to encourage more Nurses (or any profession) into research. This could be done in lunchtime seminars or trust inductions. It’s important to let nurses know that there are opportunities out there and funding available for them to pursue PHD’s or MSc’s e.g. from NIHR (National Institute for Health Research)

Even though research may not be for everybody it would be great to engage staff so that even if they don’t want to do research themselves they can tell patients that there is research going on in the trust and there may be something for you and direct the patient how to find out more.

And lastly I would say moving into Research can take some getting used to and can take a good 6 months to settle into the role, but is very rewarding.

The Association of Coloproctology Nurses are holding their annual study event alongside the ACPGBI meeting in Birmingham at the ICC on 9 July 2018.

The programme will cover a broad spectrum of specialists topics including the break through introduction of Faecal immunochemical tests on symptomatic pathways, caring for patients with faecal incontinence, an update of genetics in colorectal cancer management and cancer survivorship.

For more information and to register your place at the conference visit their website here. 

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