Medial Research Network
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National Nurses Week - Guest Blog
How has Nursing changed over the last few decades?

To celebrate National Nurses Day (May 12) and Week (12-16), we have a guest blog from our Research Nurse Manager - Valerie Ansell - on her time as a nurse and how the attitude to research has changed over the last few decades...

"I started nursing in 1981 as a student nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

It seems both an age ago and at the same time feels like it was only yesterday. So many memories are still so clear. It was a time of silver buckled belts and starched hats. Days were spent not only caring for patients but also making sure the ward was clean and tidy, with a daily cleaning book and a Ward Sister who would check for dust with a white gloved hand.

The role of the nurse was primarily to ensure the patient was clean, received the right medication, felt safe and cared for and was comforted in their hour of need. The word research was rarely heard and was always seemed to be something ‘other’ that happened elsewhere in Academia and certainly didn’t seem to concern the nurses or the patients for that matter.

The primary role of a nurse is still the same but WOW has it evolved and expanded. Nurses now undertake degrees, are considered practitioners in their own right, and undertake their own research as well as facilitating research both in academic and commercial fields.

I progressed through my career, working in general medicine, renal medicine and dialysis, general and neuro-surgical Intensive care and then as a research nurse facilitator. A career covering 35 years in the NHS. The role of research in healthcare expanded and became not only an add-on, but an essential part of daily health care work during this time. 

Research is now as much a part of healthcare as taking an aspirin. All processes and procedures are now considered to be evidence based, backed by research rather than by following tradition. Research is no longer for ‘other’ people it is for ‘all of us’ and patients both understand the value of research and request to take part. Patient support groups suggest participation to its members and are becoming more involved in design of research studies as we strive to make research patient-centric.

I spent 10 years facilitating research in a busy cardiology research department, learning so much; about research, patient’s generosity and altruism, medical and nursing staff dedication, and the value of research in the prevention and management of illness.

Just as I was about to consider reducing my hours, taking advantage of the fact that I could take early retirement from the NHS at 55, along came the MRN. As a hospital based research department we struggled with patients continuing to attend appointments, travelling long distances, at inconvenient times and sometimes the weather was awful or they just didn’t feel well enough.

The MRN provide a service that enables visits to be conducted in the subject’s home, their work place or even whilst they are on holiday. It covers more than 40 countries and helps facilitate research into rare diseases by enabling subjects from far flung areas to connect with centres of excellence and take part in innovative research.

I am indebted to the NHS for the training and experiences I had, which have instilled in me the value of hard work, team work and ultimately a desire to continue to care for and facilitate better care for everyone.

I am proud to be part of the MRN, a dynamic business that enables me to continue to utilise my skills and values."

Posted by:
Toby Heath
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