Blog 50! featuring fun facts, hints, tips and advice about clinical trials
Akiko Greshon, Jo Cook, Amy Taylor, Heidi Fletcher, Stephen Jones, Katie Chegwin
27 September 2021
To celebrate SITUs 50th Blog post, we got members of the team involved and came up with a list of 50 facts, hints, and tips about Clinical Trials, as well as fun activities we have been involved with as a team and the best parts about working in SITU.
10 facts ABOUT CLINICAL TRIALS (provided by our teams' bank of knowledge)
- “Missing data is our enemy. No data, no analysis, no result!”
As I work across a few trials it’s always good working with clinical staff with new initiatives and ideas. Get to be at the forefront of it all! As my background is as a nurse it’s good to be involved with Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) and keeping in touch with the patient side of things; adding their own experiences and contributions to directly affect future patient care.
I’ve worked across a few different areas, all of which have some super interesting parts and outcomes. But I have to say the neurosurgical trial I’m working on now, FUTURE-GB, is utterly fascinating! Some of the imaging technology is frankly astounding. Being able to map all the fiber tracts in the brain from an MRI scan, and then fusing that image to an ultrasound machine, so surgeons have that “map” at their fingertips to guide them in theatre – that’s like something out of science fiction! And working with people who do this as their regular job, helping them to create and improve techniques across all the surgical units in the UK, that’s really quite inspiring. From our collaboration, we can make a real improvement to patients’ lives and further surgical innovation. That’s pretty good as far as job satisfaction goes! Find out more about the FUTURE-GB Trial.
Communicating with your stakeholders is key!
A record 1,390,483 participants took part in National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) portfolio studies in England in 2020/21 - up from 732,176 in 2019/20. Find out more about this record on the NIHR website.
- I was impressed by how quickly the approvals for COVID-related clinical trials have gone through (I think it was around 7 to 10 days) when for a normal clinical trial, you need months.
I can’t claim to be the only person to say this, but I think it is always worth keeping in mind: "Excessive data collection increases everybody’s time & impacts the quality of essential data."
- The Sino Nasal Outcome Test for patients with Chronic Rhinosinusitis is referred to as the SNOT test, which is the perfect acronym for an ear nose and throat (ENT) condition.
- Clinical trials are here to improve the future of healthcare.
- The Clinical Research Network (CRN) is a useful resource as they support those working on clinical trials to enable high-quality research to take place. Discover more information about the CRN on their website.
10 Hints and tips about running (or working on) a clinical trial
- Keep your eTMF/email/cupboard tidy and in logical order.
In order to manage and prioritise my emails I find it easier to tackle them by answering those queries that can be addressed in a few sentences first; then the ones that may take more time I simply reply saying ‘I will get back to them in a few days. They then know you have acknowledged them and it takes the pressure off to allow me to concentrate on more urgent tasks. I also always reply (to all) after a meeting I’ve chaired thanking people for their contribution.
For any email attachments that need filing or completing I create a separate file as a to-do folder so that everything is in one place then filed when they are done. Saves time trawling through emails to find them.
If I am 'time poor' after a meeting to do minutes (for example going on leave) I send bullet points in an email with bullet action points and pdf and save them in the eTMF instead of fully typed up minutes.
I think I say this a lot, but communication is the key to success here. Particularly, making sure that your relationship with your Chief Investigator (CI) is good, so they know they can rely on you and that you know they have your back. Setting out expectations for all of the collaborators and stakeholders you work with, and even pushing back sometimes if need be. It’s very easy as a trial manager to try to “fix” everything (especially as we all tend to be that type of person!) But there are also times when it’s more appropriate to let others do that. Managing a trial is like spinning a lot of plates all at once, and learning which parts are delegable or not your plates to spin (so to speak) is an important way to ensure you manage your trial in the best way.
Lists. I’m a big fan of paper lists and making easy-to-follow guides for sites – listing processes in a VERY simple way, so even the most over-tired clinician can follow it!
Always keep the patient participant in mind and never take their trust in the study for granted.
- Organisation & documentation are the key. Write things down, up to you if you prefer to use a physical or a virtual notebook. I personally use a virtual tool called ‘Trello’ and I couldn’t recommend it more! Read our blog post about how Trello can benefit you.
- Moving into clinical trials I was struck with how structured and bureaucratic it is. Before I worked in clinical trials, a lot of the work I did was more ‘improvised’. But as time has passed, I have learnt that whilst trials have strict guidelines, it is also important to be able to adapt, within that structure. This has obviously been especially true during Covid.
- Set short-term and long-term goals and take a moment to enjoy the easy wins. When everything seems to be falling apart, keep going!
10 FUN things ABOUT THE SITU TEAM
- I have been surprised that during Covid WFH I have missed the social get-togethers. At Christmas, I even missed secret Santa, which pre-covid, Heidi thought was a bit of a faff!
The Christmas quiz, secret Santa (it was great fun seeing the gifts that everyone receives), and, although our acting colleagues have moved on, it was hilarious seeing them act out the charades!
Have to say, Ivy and her waffle maker are one of the highlights!
- We’ve done some fun stuff as a team when we’ve been office-based – I particularly enjoyed attending the Big Bang as part of the NDORMS outreach team. It was so great to talk about trials and what we do to kids and show them parts of research they may not know about.
- I have enjoyed our outdoor meet-ups while we’ve all been home working. Since 2020 I have moved from NDORMS to NDS and it was great to meet a lot of my new colleagues in NDS and catch up with my friends from NDORMS too!
- The Oxford Town and Gown 10k charity run. We raised money for Muscular Dystrophy UK. Read more about the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK.
Pre-COVID, we held office sweepstakes for popular shows and sports such as Great British Bake Off, Strictly Come Dancing, Rugby and Football world cups, etc. With Great British Bake Off, the people whose contestants went out were in charge of office bakes that week. Gemma’s fish-themed showstopper was incredible!
Pre-COVID, the Christmas meal/night out in 2019 we arranged was great fun.
'Parjama day' – I did my first ever NDORMS presentation wearing my jammies! We raised money for Alzheimer's Research UK (ARUK). Read more about the charity ARUK.
- I started to work at SITU remotely, so the trial management forum has been particularly fun and one of my main sources to really meet the team and staying in touch. Love the fact as well that we have met a couple of times for a picnic at Bury Knowle Park. Was really fun to finally meet everyone face-to-face.
The best part about working in SITU
- Working with friendly and overall nice people.
Meeting and working with new people and the regulars of course! Even though we have been remote working for so long now I still feel that we have maintained our relationships with the Trial Manager’s Forum and our weekly virtual coffee catch up’s! We have certainly discussed a huge variety of topics over the last 18 months.
I think for me, aside from working with some fascinating studies and wonderful CIs, it’s the collaboration with all the other trial and data managers. Having all that knowledge as a resource from people with differing experiences, and their willingness to share that really helps to refine our practices and trials. It helps us to pick the best bits of a process, the best way forward for a task, or even just to look at things in a novel way. Learning from each other and collaborating - sappy as that sounds - that’s the best aspect of SITU for me.
The times when people bring cakes and sweet treats into the office!
- Regular team meetings before and throughout COVID.
Working in SITU has opened up so many opportunities for me to learn, not only from knowledgeable team members but by also being able to attend training run by OCTRU or the University of Oxford.
I’m going back a few years here but as well sharing a morning cafetiere of coffee we would pause for a mid-afternoon pot of tea (with tea leaves!) which was lovely.
- How friendly everyone is, it’s such a pleasure working here! Everyone is super approachable and kind.
- This has got to be the people. I think that it is great that everybody helps each other. SITU people are not egotistical, we work well together as a team.
- The work itself is diverse and interesting, but it's the camaraderie that makes me smile.