Clinical trials are the backbone of medicine. They ensure that new treatments are both safe and effective, not only potentially improving the conditions of patients but also saving lives, now and in the future. Over the years, clinical trials have led to some of the greatest medical breakthroughs, including the recent mRNA vaccines for COVID-19. And at Penn Medicine, clinical research is a huge enterprise. At any given time there are more than 3,000 active clinical research studies with over 130,000 patients enrolled.
Penn Medicine’s 1,200 clinical research professionals—which includes members of clinical trial research teams—work together to advance the science of clinical care, provide access to innovative therapy and improve clinical outcomes.
To some patients enrolled in clinical studies, a clinical research nurse (CRN) might seem like just another nurse on their care team—but in fact a CRN plays a complex and pivotal role in the care of research participants in the hospital and clinic and behind the scenes.
“Their clinical nursing practice knowledge combined with expertise of the principles and practices of clinical research serve a critical need on the collaborative multidisciplinary care team,” says Maria Hendricks, director of Clinical Research Operations at the Abramson Cancer Center’s Clinical Research Unit in the Perelman School of Medicine.
There is often a misconception that CRNs do not have patient contact. But, in fact, the nurse-patient relationship was cited by many CRNs on a survey as the most satisfying part of their role. CRNs are often the first members of the research team to meet research participants, screen them for their eligibility for a trial, and are involved in the consent process. The CRN is responsible for serving as patient advocate for all matters related to study participation.
In short, the CRN is essential to the continuity of care for patients in clinical trials. “It’s about collaborating to maintain the integrity of the research protocol and safeguarding the participant to answer important questions to advance care,” Hendricks says.
This story is by Sally Sapega. Read more at Penn Medicine News.