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The Summer 2020 Transfer Window banner

In one of the quietest and earliest moves of the summer 2020 transfer season, I made the switch from “NDORMS FC” to “NDS Town”. Leaving the hallowed halls of NDORMS, not to mention the NINJA and SPINOUT-F trials behind, to step back (metaphorically only) into the department from whence I came - to run FUTURE-GB. A 2-stage trial looking at using additional imaging to create better outcomes for brain tumour patients.

In reality, I actually just bought a new desk and put it in a different place in my lounge, but that sounds far less interesting! Joking aside, a role change moving from one department to another - while nothing physically changes to mark that new beginning - is the most more bizarre way I have started a job in my life! Having IT bring your new laptop to you at home in the middle of a giant rainstorm was a new one on me too!

Thankfully, I have worked with most of the people on the NDS side of SITU before, and also spent time as a Trial Coordinator in the department before coming to NDORMS, so it wasn’t a huge culture shock through the medium of Teams. The faces I saw across the open-plan are all still there, just with a shelf or cat in the background instead!

Changing department across the University is always an interesting time, there are new processes for HR and expenses, new ways of working, new names to remember, new committees to join – it’s a little uncanny. Everything is the same, yet subtly different somehow. The departmental emails you get - the bulletins and newsletters - change form and tone, but still land in your inbox with regularity. People joining and leaving, sharing their successes admin and upbeat welfare notes are the same University-wide.

Interestingly enough though, having now seen how both sides of SITU work there are a bunch of things I’ve noticed that each department does differently within SITU itself. Aside from obvious differences in the behind-the-scenes setups, and working relationships with different groups and hospitals within OUH.

There’s a few structural differences and ways in which each department manages their trials. To make this easier to digest, I put together a handy table:

NDS logo

 NDORMS logo

Smaller trial team

Larger trial team

Dedicated trial data managers/trial assistants

Centralised data managers/trial assistants

Wider variety of surgical trial topics

Musculoskeletal or plastics-based trials

…and then I ran out of differences because I realised that while each department is run in its own way, and operates slightly differently in SITU (I had to make that pun somewhere!) In reality, the majority of things are the same! The highs and lows of being a trial manager are the same whether my email is @ndorms or @nds.

This was the main idea that occurred to me as I was asked to write this post - how much unseen unity there is between the departments, “SITUnity” if you will… Having a weekly Teams social call with the wider group, and Trial Management Forum means that we get to see each other and have those little chit chats that we miss out on while out of the office. Being able to have that “photocopier chat” and an easy way to pick each other’s brains is infinitely helpful, wherever we might be doing our work. The valuable experience and knowledge of the greater trial team is so helpful for getting those things done that you’ve never done, or whose processes have changed, or just a little metaphorical hand-holding to let you know you *are* completing the form the correct way.

Some of the examples off the top of my head that we’ve helped each other with over the last few months:

  •  Navigating the amendment process.
  • Submitting and responding to REC, wondering if you’ll achieve the impossible – get accepted with V1.0. The dream of every trial manager!
  • Trying to find the right version of the SoECAT, and fathom what the exact patient pathway is for standard of care.
  • Testing databases and learning the myriad amazing functions of REDCap.
  • Discussing the best ways to help a CI understand and complete their required training.
  • How to navigate the ever-changing and complex pathway of opening/restarting surgical trials in the middle of a pandemic.

So yes, NDS and NDORMS are quite different on one level, very distinct, distinguished entities in their own right, with their own established areas of expertise and research. And there, nestled in the centre of their overlapping research interests is the little blue spot that is SITU. Where we’re different, yet the same in so many ways, working to the same goal, beset by the same issues and, especially now, there to help each other.