Clinical Trials with Compassion
How Nurses Help Patients Navigate the System
Clinical trials take a diverse team of professionals to succeed and clinical trials nurses are tasked with making sure patients and their caregivers successfully navigate this complex course.
Marcia Flynn-Post and Julie Gundry manage a team of more than 70 nurses who are instrumental in supporting clinical trials patients throughout their journey, and ensuring those who volunteer to participate experience a seamless transition between clinical and research care. “One of the most rewarding aspects of clinical trials nursing is the relationships with patients and families that develop as we help them navigate the health care system,” says Gundry. “Although we are there to facilitate participation in a clinical trial, we also care for the whole patient and assist them to access any resources they need to achieve wellness.”
Clinical research is a collaborative effort that involves the support from clinical teams, physicians, allied health and clinical research professionals. “At The Princess Margaret we're very lucky,” says Flynn-Post, who has been an oncology nurse for nearly 30 years. “We have a lot of support and infrastructure and the teams work closely together.”
Clinical trials cut across the boundaries of care, and The Princess Margaret has embarked on the next generation of care, cell therapy. Cell therapy trials including CAR T, “are promising, but very intensive trials. The side effects can come on very quickly. And they require nurses to be extremely diligent,” notes Flynn-Post.
Another exciting area for care is in the Bi-specific T-cell (BiTE) trials. The BiTE treatments use a linked antibody that can bring together part of a patient's immune system, their T-cells, to their cancer cells, which allows the T-cell to kill the cancer.
Both treatment types are novel and require the nurses to be incredibly knowledgeable. “One of the big roles we play is patient teaching. Making sure that patients and their families understand not only what is required of them in terms of what's next in their treatment course, but what side effects they should look for,” says Flynn-Post.
Being a clinical trials nurse is dynamic, challenging and rewarding. This dedicated team demonstrates their compassion for their patients every day, enabling the treatments of tomorrow.
“The best thing is seeing the outcomes. Even if it's not a cure, we're seeing improvements in how long people live and patients' quality of life.”