“To be a part of something that could result in life-changing treatment for patients can’t be underestimated.”
Emma Virgilio is a Senior Research Nurse with Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and being in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic means that this important area of work is on people’s radar perhaps more now than ever.
“With all the news headlines focusing on the development of a vaccine and the publicity around the various trials that are currently underway I do think there’s a greater awareness of the vital role that research has to play not just in the midst of this crisis but in everyday healthcare,” said Emma.
The mother-of-five originally went into nursing to become a midwife and had already got a degree in science. When she completed her nursing studies, however, she never got round to embarking on her midwifery studies and specialised in cardiothoracics, the treatment of heart and lung conditions.
“At that time I didn’t know anything about the role of a research nurse but while I was working in the outpatients department in Wolverhampton I get to know the research nurse who kept popping in and out and when a job came up there I felt ready to try a new challenge and broaden my experience.”
Emma, aged 42, joined Walsall Healthcare in 2018 and says there is no such thing as a typical day in research which is one of the reasons why she loves her job so much.
“For me, one of the best things about working in research is getting to know the patients who are taking part in the various trials that are being run,” she explained.
“It is so humbling to talk to a patient who describes the pain and discomfort caused by their condition and tells you in the same breath that if they can spare just one person the same experience they want to do all they can. I think this was brought home to me even more so when I was redeployed on to our Intensive Care Unit recently. I spoke with relatives who were going through the worst time of their lives yet wanted to help others. People can be remarkable.
“I hope that the current pandemic does mean that the public becomes more focused on research. To be a part of something that could result in life-changing treatment for patients can’t be underestimated. And International Nurses’ Day creates an opportunity to showcase the wide range of careers available in this field, of which research is just one.
“We’re also here to support colleagues to work with us on these trials and are always happy to have a chat about our work and support them if they want to get on board.”
In her pre-lockdown spare time Emma enjoyed family meals and is looking forward to starting those up again when it’s safe to do so. “Until then I will keep reading about science-related topics which I really enjoy and looking forward to being able to pick up the many other non-Covid-19 studies we’re involved in in Walsall as these have had to be put on hold, understandably, for now.”
Walsall Healthcare’s Research and Development Team is currently taking part in three COVID-19 related trials:
The Randomised Evaluation of COVID Therapy (RECOVERY) trial led by Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at Oxford University, focuses on existing and new drugs which may help hospitalised patients with confirmed COVID-19
UKOSS: Pandemic Influenza in Pregnancy and ISARIC/WHO Clinical Characterisation Protocol for Severe Emerging Infections in the UK. The UKOSS study is looking at incidence, management and outcomes of COVID-19 in pregnancy to identify factors associated with better outcomes for women and their babies. The ISARIC study is being supported by three medical students and is focusing on detailed clinical data of patients.