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Starting a career in research nursing during a global pandemic

07 March 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 5


In the spring of 2020, two nurses (KR and AJ) commenced their research nurse careers amid the SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19) global pandemic. This reflective article discusses their experiences of beginning a clinical research nursing career, presented as a case study of their learning journey, rather than detailing the randomised controlled trial they delivered via GP practices. The main study compared standard care to nurse-led management of irritable bowel syndrome, the details of which will be published separately. The article identifies three overarching concepts: ‘Green as grass, keen as mustard’, ‘Spires and steeples’, and ‘Down the rabbit hole’. The article offers insight from the two nurses for other professionals contemplating a career in research.

In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic, which limited research activities and career advancement for those working in this area (Iles-Smith et al, 2020; Castro-Sánchez et al, 2021). Castro-Sánchez et al (2021) suggested that a lack of clinical research beyond acute care environments may have hampered learning opportunities, particularly for nurse-led research, until collaboration to identify some of the operational barriers and facilitators to their transition that they experienced, and offers strategies that counter these challenges, as described by Braun and Clarke (2019) and Whitehouse et al (2022).

Table 1 provides a timeline of their journey from January 2020 to January 2023.

The research nurses, KR and AJ, were recruited to a National Institute for Health and Care Research trial taking place within the nurses' NHS Trust (see Box 1). This aimed to explore the novel management of the symptoms of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Both nurses were new to clinical research; this section discusses their lack of research experience and their motivation for a career change.

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