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Early summer every year brings two groups of unsuspecting youths to our midst. They come as a joint force of work experience students from both NDORMS and NDS and join us for a morning session. A different group attends on two different weeks. They come unsuspecting. They come slightly frightened from just having had a heavy statistics and ethics talks. They come a little excited having just ultra-sounded their buddies’ arm. They come unknowing….unknowing on the workings of SITU. 

However, they leave, inspired, knowledgeable, aware and full of chocolate. This has been the pattern for our annual SITU Work Experience session now for the past 4 years. The content of the session is a legacy from Claire Thompson (NDS-SITU’s previous Trial Development Lead) – so thanks Claire for the ideas! 

Students come in and are provided with an oversight of surgical research and what we do in SITU. We highlight what has gone wrong in research before and why it’s important that evidence is sought in a robust and ethical way. Events from history that justify this process include the Nazi trials during WWII; the Thalidomide failure and the Tuskagee experiment. We also provide information about the multidisciplinary teams that are involved in clinical research in the hope the students can see possible career paths into research. Thanks to Jo and Gemma for helping present these sessions. 

But don’t worry – the session was not all on such a serious note. This year Steffi and Lisa (in respective weeks) presented their trials and offered some tips and hints on how to recruit patients to them. Other members of SITU join in and students then have to attempt to recruit us to their trial. It was great to see their learning put into practice…some were very persuasive and I understand I am now booked in for a knee replacement operation…? 

After a short break involving biscuits and the infamous SITU Rock, we move on to the crux of the session – the real life Randomised Controlled Trial! The excitement was palpable. This involved random allocation to dark or white chocolate, a memory test and a live consort. All to test the hypothesis that dark chocolate enhances memory recall. We can’t yet provide the outcome as there was some issue with the trial validity – rightly pointed out by one of the students. Perhaps tune in next year to see if we can help improve the trial conduct and outcome. 

Every year we end the session with a short multiple choice quiz, 10 questions related to clinical research and 10 general knowledge questions. These perhaps need updating as it appears 16 and 17 year olds of today aren’t up to speed with the names of the 7 dwarves. 

SITU really enjoy this session and the feedback this year was really positive. See some more on the NDORMS website here

We feel we have inspired some future generation clinical researchers…our work here is done…until next year anyway.