National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who is widely seen as the founder of modern nursing. Did you know that Science 37 has mobile research nurses on staff who help with study visits in patients’ homes? It’s true! In fact, we sat down with Anastasiya Halytcka, one of our dauntless nurses, to understand and appreciate the extremely important work that nurses do.
Q: What does a nurse at a clinical research company do? What’s a typical day like?
I’m a mobile research nurse, so my typical day can vary and that’s very exciting. My day will typically start with getting a yummy cup of coffee and breakfast. Then I will make sure my computer and mobile systems are working properly and I can log in. I make sure my nursing bag has any equipment or tools that might be missing at the patient’s home or any extras that I might need. I also have to think about the amount of equipment and bags that I have to carry to the patient’s visit, since sometimes the visits are more than a one-time thing. Depending on the time of the patient’s appointment, I will check Waze to make sure I get there on time. I also have to account for parking time — living in Chicago, you have to give yourself plenty of time to look for a spot.
But once I get to the patient, that’s where all the fun begins. Being a mobile research nurse means that you bring the lab, the office, the doctor, and the whole clinical site to the patient! I’ll typically use a little creativity to organize my “lab station” — where is the best spot to put my centrifuge so it doesn’t run away? Where can I get that amazing natural light for the photos I need for my documentation? I feel like an IT expert when I successfully figure out different ways to get the physician on the video call if my mobile systems aren’t working. I also feel like his second pair of hands as I describe and show my patient’s presentation on camera. As the visit continues, I might get some deliveries to the patient’s location. The cool part is that I get to utilize my equipment in various ways to either record or document the investigational drug that arrives, the temperature at which it arrives, and other related information.
You become good friends with the delivery guys and they become very curious as to why you need such a big delivery of dry ice (hint: to collect samples). Throughout this whole visit and also the day, I’m in communication with a clinical research coordinator (CRC) assigned to the research study. The coordinator is there to support you and work with you to resolve any issues that arise, either technological or philosophical. I don’t know what I would do without the CRCs! When my visit is complete, I think one of the biggest challenges for me is figuring out for how many times I will have to return to my car to bring all the equipment back.
But there are also less exciting days where I have to do paperwork as well as read and research the protocols and policies for the studies that I’m working on. It’s extremely important to understand what you are doing and to do it within the protocol, because the results of these studies will affect so many people. Some days, I will be in and out of meetings about one or multiple studies. A ton of work goes into planning and starting a study. Vendors need to be contacted, a budget needs to be set, you need to find compliant labs. You get to meet and communicate with such a variety of people, even from different countries throughout the globe. Therefore, a nurse’s job at a clinical research company is never a dull day!
Q: How is it different from previous nursing jobs you’ve had before?
In my previous nursing jobs, we mostly would focus on direct patient care, patient monitoring, and education for patients and their families. In this position, I’m able to utilize so many of my other skills. I love technology, for example, and to be able to experience a completely different reality of using technology and bringing science into the patient’s home is just incredibly exciting. In this role, I also get a lot of autonomy, yet I am fully supported by the whole study team. You realize that many different professionals can actually collaborate and work toward the common goal of making possibilities real for our patients, who thought they had hit a dead end.
Q: Describe one of your most memorable experiences as a nurse.
I will never forget a time when I was working as a per diem school nurse. This was pre-K to 4th grade. I got a call from a teacher who said she is sending a 2nd grader in for an emergency. I was sitting in the office and waiting for either a bloody nose or a badly scraped elbow. A sweet blond girl walks in, with a very confused expression on her face, just lost. She has what looks like a nest on her head, but it is made up of her own hair and she has her hand attached to it. When I looked closer, I realized that her beautiful, long blond hair was tangled up in a huge hairbrush and she was not letting the brush go from her hand. As a nurse, I had no idea what to do. I kind of just stood there, shocked, trying to figure out if it’s even possible to release this child from this torturous hairbrush. Then I gave her a big hug and sat down to talk to her, so she could relax and I could find out what happened. She explained that she didn’t remember where she got the hairbrush from, but as they were watching a movie in class, she was playing with the brush and this happened! Long story short, this wasn’t a one-woman job. People who helped me complete this hair mission were: the cook, the secretary of the principal’s office, and the assistant principal. The beauty was safely released from the beast! After this experience, I knew for sure that we nurses can do anything. If we are not afraid to think outside of the box to figure out a particular situation and ask for assistance from whomever necessary, we are able to accomplish big things!
Q: What’s the best thing about being a nurse?
I feel like the best thing about being a nurse is being able to feel like a superhero, of course not all the time, but a lot of times. You realize that what you do actually matters. You take the knowledge that you received in school and continuously expand it as our medical discoveries grow, as we learn about new medical equipment, and as new technologies and possibilities become real. And one of my favorite things is that you learn how to put a smile on anyone’s face. You gain a sense of empathy that helps you feel other people’s pain and drives you to look for answers. There’s a great sense of accomplishment when you see that your work and your attitude have a positive impact.