Research Nurse

Maria Espasandin is a Research Nurse at the Royal London Hospital. Her job is crucial to the smooth running of clinical trials. Maria works with Principal Investigators, Clinical Research Associates and Research Technicians. She coordinates the tests for patients and trial volunteers, collects and prepares samples, and manages the paperwork involved in each specific trial, or the set of instructions that explains how a clinical trial is run.

Maria’s days are varied. She may take blood samples, urine samples, or run other tests on patients or trial volunteers. The results of these tests will be analysed by the Data Manager to determine whether new medicines or treatments are effective.

Maria spends some days on admin work, making sure patients’ files are up to date, or submitting trial documents for ethical review. Prior to study commencement each trial is peer reviewed – this is a process where other scientists check a clinical trial’s methods. After a study is finished, she sends the trial records for archiving. In some trials, Maria may also take on the work of a patient coordinator or a data manager.

An important part of her job is gaining patients’ consent. She needs to tell patients about any possible risks of an experimental treatment so that they can make an informed decision about whether to participate. “It has to be someone with adequate understanding, training, and experience in that field,” says Maria. “I’ve been doing research for a long time, so I’m more than happy to explain to the patient what the trial involves.”

From as early as she could remember, Maria wanted to be a nurse. She trained at age 18, and worked as an Accident and Emergency nurse when she became involved with a study about pneumonia. “I thought, Wow! There’s research going on in the clinical area, and we’re all getting involved!” she says. “I’ve been at it ever since, 11 years.”