On 12th May, Florence Nightingale’s birthday, International Nurses Day (IND) is celebrated around the world.
This year, the theme for IND is: ‘Nurses: A Voice to Lead – A vision for future healthcare’. It calls for us to focus on the recent changes to and innovations in nursing, and how this will ultimately shape the future of healthcare.
Over the last 12 months, a spotlight has been shone on the healthcare and clinical industries like never before. Nurses have been at the forefront of our minds as the key workers during the pandemic, and for their vital role at all stages of the clinical journey.
At mdgroup, we work with some phenomenal nurses around the world who are driven by a huge passion for their work. We spoke to two of them – Rohini Akosa in the UK and DeeAnn Taylor-Rivera in the US – about their careers, motivations, the impact of COVID on their work and their vision for the future of nursing and health.
Thank you so much both for speaking with us on IND. Firstly, we’d love to know what inspired you to become nurses?
Rohini: My mom was definitely a huge influence on my decision to become a nurse. She became a nurse in her twenties and retired in her late sixties. I remember visiting her at work and marvelling at how calm she remained under enormous pressure, and at the same time delivered patient care with kindness and compassion.
DeeAnn: I started college as a computer major and then realised that I really like being around people. I switched to nursing and now I love getting paid to talk to people all day!
What has been the biggest learning of your nursing career so far?
Rohini: For most nurses, this job is more of a labour of love than ‘work’ – I believe you give a little piece of yourself to every patient you look after. What I have learnt over the years is that the resilience of the human spirit is far stronger than I ever imagined. My biggest learning has come from my patients who have not only taught me perspective, but also the importance of living life to the fullest.
“This job is more a labour of love than ‘work’ – I believe you give a little piece of yourself to every patient you look after.”
DeeAnn: That attitude can be a great predictor of whether a person recovers or not. Also, that when you work in the medical field you must always be willing to learn new things.
What motivates you to keep on giving 100% to your role every day?
Rohini: I miss working on the wards and having one-to-one patient contact, but now I am motivated every day by the knowledge that I am contributing in some small way to the discovery of new treatments for diseases, which could make the lives of patients better.
DeeAnn: As a nurse, you don’t see people at their best. They’re often weak, scared, angry, confused, and vulnerable. Especially in clinical trials, where patients volunteer because they not only want to help themselves, they want to help others too. A patient once said to me: “Being in this trial is like giving the finger to my disease because I’m helping kick its butt.” That’s why I feel like giving any less than 100% wouldn’t do.
What is your favourite thing about nursing?
Rohini: Listening, sharing and helping are the most satisfying elements of being a nurse. It’s seeing a patient going home better, or dying with dignity, and knowing that you did a good job and you helped when they were at their most vulnerable.
DeeAnn: For me, it’s the listening. Everyone has a unique story, and it is always an honour that I get to be a minor character in their story and share their journey for a bit.
How have you seen the role of nurses in clinical research patient services evolve over the years?
Rohini: The last couple of years especially have shown us that clinical research is in a constant state of flux and advancement. The resulting care pathway has brought nurses closer to contributing to research directly, making our skillset and expertise even more valuable. Nurses are vital in contributing to best practice for study teams embarking on new modes of clinical research. We enhance the patient experience and champion patient-centricity by ensuring the changing needs of patients are met. This is at the heart of what we do at mdgroup.
“We are being recognised as educated professionals and being involved in many more areas – I expect this trend to continue.”
DeeAnn: I have been delivering Home Health services in clinical trials for 12 years, and the services we provide have become far more complex as decentralised trials have become more common. Another evolving role of nurses is providing education and input into clinical trials. I have given presentations to sites, helped with recruitment, assisted in writing protocols and operating procedures, and helped with start-up and ethical questions. Nursing has become so much more than just taking a set of vital signs and writing it down. We are being recognised as educated professionals and being involved in many more areas – I expect this trend to continue.
What does ‘putting patients first’ mean to you and how do you put it into action?
Rohini: Putting patients first means just that – the needs and wishes of patients are paramount in everything we do, and the patient is the best person to tell us what those needs are. We just need to listen.
DeeAnn: To me, putting patients first means I treat patients in the same way I would want my grandparents or children to be treated. I want every person’s experience with me, and with mdgroup, to exceed their expectations and leave them so impressed they want to tell everyone about how amazingly they’ve been looked after.
The global events of the last year have shown the world the importance of nurses’ roles. What do you hope will be the impact of this renewed understanding and appreciation of your profession?
Rohini: As well as looking forwards, I believe this is an important time to look back and appreciate the work of our predecessors like Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale. They were amazing role models who were pivotal in getting us to where we are as a profession.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us there are many present-day heroes too, working hard to get us through this difficult time. It has highlighted the vital importance of nurses, whether they’re caring directly for people or providing services to those in need. I’ve been a registered nurse for over 20 years, and the last year has made me extremely proud of my profession while also being a humbling experience.
Above all, I hope the renewed understanding and appreciation of our profession will result in better pay and proper mental health support for nurses. This is imperative if we are to protect the nursing workforce for the future.
“I hope the renewed understanding and appreciation of our profession will result in better pay and proper mental health support for nurses. This is imperative to protect the nursing workforce for the future.”
DeeAnn: In the US, I would like to see more community-centred health services in which physicians and nurses visit those who are immune-compromised or disease vulnerable in order to protect their health. I hope more mobile services will be provided to extend health service provision.
What do you think has been the biggest change or innovation in nursing over the past couple of years and how will this shape the future of healthcare?
Rohini: The decentralisation of clinical trials has not only been an immediate risk-mitigation tactic due to the pandemic – it has evolved into a highly effective, comprehensive approach which can be used to conduct clinical trials under any circumstances. Decentralisation has also enhanced the professional autonomy, job satisfaction, and organisational commitment of nurses. The changes we have made mean patients can be seen more conveniently, enabling continued participation in clinical trials regardless of their location or unexpected life events.
DeeAnn: I became a nurse in 1999 when computers were just being introduced at the bedside – so a lot has changed since then! One of the biggest innovations in recent years though is patients’ rights. Everyone has a right to know what a treatment might do to them, and clinical trials are paramount in collecting this information – ensuring people know what they are putting in their bodies and have a choice about their treatment.
What is your vision for the future of patient services in the clinical research industry?
Rohini: I think the industry will benefit hugely from harnessing new technologies to address high volumes of complex clinical data. Patients will also become more knowledgeable, informed and engaged as a result of the autonomy enabled by technology. Stay-at-home trials and intelligent trial onboarding will play a vital role in removing geographical barriers and providing access to a larger, global pool of patients. Fully decentralised or hybrid clinical trials have huge potential to increase participant diversity by enabling patient recruitment from a much wider pool, not just those living within a reasonable distance of a study site.
“Clinical trials help more than just the current generation, they leave a legacy of healing.”
DeeAnn: The most fascinating sites I visit are the ones trying to find a trial for every person to participate in. I would love for clinical trial participation to be the norm, rather than the exception. Clinical trials help more than just the current generation, they leave a legacy of healing. I am inspired every day to know that I have played even a small part in making life better now and in the future.
Happy International Nurses Day to all our nurses at mdgroup, and around the world. Today. We celebrate you.
Show your appreciation for nurses and find out more about global support initiatives at the hashtag #IND2021