5 minutes with Denise O’Donnell, Senior Hepatology Research Nurse in Oxford

Posted on by Kelly Gleason in Collaborative Network, Professional Development, Research

Research nurse interview with Denise O’Donnell, Senior Hepatology Research Nurse, Gastro Clinical Trials Facility, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford

Where were you brought up? Co Donegal, Ireland

Which subject did you like most at school? English

What was your first job? Health Care Assistant in our local Hospital when I was 18

What was your first job in healthcare? My job as a Health Care Assistant

What was your first job in research? Hepatology Research Nurse

Why did you apply for that job? I was working on a Gastro ward and one of my colleagues pointed out the post for a Hepatology Research Nurse to me and I thought it would be good experience while still remaining in a familiar field.

What job do you do now? I am now one of the senior nurses in our team.

What do you like most about your job? I really enjoy co-ordinating new studies, seeing all of the months of hard work come together when that first patient attends for screening.

What do you like least about your job? The paperwork!

What keeps you awake at night? My mind, always busy thinking.

What gets you up in the morning? Work, my 14 year old daughter, my bladder as I get older!!

What might a typical day in your job look like?  I work from 07.00 -15.00, I love that first hour when it is quiet, I am a morning person. I always check faxes when I first get in as we receive all blood results via fax so I like to see what’s happening with our patients. I will then discuss with our PI, about 07.45, and get them signed off so I can file them. I will check the diary for the day and usually meet with Toby our administrator by 08.00 to discuss progress with studies that are in set up and what needs preparation for studies I spend a lot of time going through patient notes to check their suitability before discussing with the PI at a later date. I may have patients to see or monitors to meet on various days. We also have regular Hepatology Research Meetings that we all attend which help to update PI’s, investigators, fellows, lab staff & nurses on on-going & upcoming studies. I do ad hoc fibroscans for the clinicians on various clinic days. I manage the TMF’s for our locally lead studies so I try to make time to keep them up to date and also complete feasibility for new studies. This year I have also become part of various groups so attend regular meetings for them.

What is the one thing you feel is most misunderstood about your job? When I applied for research my then manager said I would not like it as there will be no patient contact. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

What one thing would you change about healthcare research? I would like to improve other healthcare professionals understanding of the huge importance of healthcare research. I would like them to spend a day with our team and see the difference healthcare research can make.

What is the biggest challenge working in research in your clinical area? Hepatology is not sexy! Many people have preconceived ideas about our patient group.

What do you love most about your patients? We participate in many studies with patients that have Hepatitis C virus, we are very lucky that we work in an area where, with new therapies, we have actually a very good chance of curing patients of their disease.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting their career in healthcare? Do not be afraid to try something new, even if it was never in your plans, do not rule anything out.

If you had not worked in healthcare, what would you have done and why? Possible the police force and again probably because you can make a difference.

What is the single best reason for working in research? The ability to offer patients a chance to get involved in something that could possibly change their lives. To see drugs that we have used in our studies become licenced and standard of care for patients.

I once had a patient whose partner sadly was diagnosed with breast cancer during his treatment with us in a study. She told me that when they told her about her breast cancer her, she immediately said she would like to be considered for any studies that might help her and she said she only said this because she had seen what her partner had experienced being part of a study and was completely reassured about getting involved herself in research. Stories like this reassure me that we are doing our job well.

What do you think the role of the research nurse will look like in 20 years’ time? Our team works very closely with the specialist nurses, Vicki who is one of the specialist nurses works with us 2 days a week and this has given her a greater understanding of research and how that research may change their practice. In the future I see the research nurse’s role bridge that gap between research and clinical practice where seeing the research nurse on the ward is just as familiar a face as the physio or OT.

I can see that the responsibilities of the research nurse will increase over the years, as it is research nurses co-ordinate and do most of the pre-study work in the set up stages but it would be good to see that responsibility carry on throughout studies. I think that experienced research nurses are very knowledgeable and capable of this, such as prescribing, signing of labs etc…

Denise O’Donnell currently works in Hepatology Research in the Gastro Clinical Trials Facility at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Denise’s background is in gastroenterology but for the last four years, her focus has been Hepatitis C research. Denise works on both academic & industry led studies in a small but perfectly formed team. She is an absolute delight- able, funny and forever optimistic, all great qualities for a research nurse.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


View a full archive of all our posts