BLOG: With COVID-19, the relevance of clinical trials has been made evident
Nicola, MSc in Clinical Trials student, reflects on her experience of learning about clinical trials during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Nicola Perry | MSc in Clinical Trials Student (Year 3)
We have been confronted with the extraordinary situation of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic where now more than ever, the relevance of clinical trials has been made evident. The increasing demand for effective treatments and a vaccine against the novel coronavirus has drastically changed the landscape of my day-to-day work and has hugely impacted research activity.
I decided to embark on my MSc in Clinical Trials after starting a new job as a Pharmacy Clinical Trials Administrator at a busy teaching hospital in central London. Having researched the course, I felt that this would be a great way to strengthen my theoretical knowledge and help me to advance along my chosen career path whilst being able to maintain working full time alongside my studies.
Studying clinical trials whilst also working in the field, although demanding at times, has had a synergistic effect. The flexibility of being able to select modules that not only aligned with my interests, but also my professional goals, meant that in a sense, my studies have helped to shape my career.
In my second year of the MSc, I moved up the ladder at work to become a Clinical Trials Associate in early phase research. Studying modules such as pharmacovigilance was an excellent way to focus my knowledge and gain a more specialised understanding of the concepts that underpinned my practical work within the NHS. Additionally, the experiences I had at work greatly complimented my learning by allowing me to see things in motion.
The skills I have developed on this course, have allowed me to advance at work to become a confident Clinical Trial Coordinator overseeing the set-up and management of a large portfolio of Oncology and Neurology clinical trials at my hospital and even sharing my knowledge through delivering training to my department.
Since starting my final year of the course in September, we have been confronted with the extraordinary situation of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic where now more than ever, the relevance of clinical trials has been made evident. The increasing demand for effective treatments and a vaccine against the novel coronavirus has drastically changed the landscape of my day-to-day work and has hugely impacted research activity. Although not an idyllic situation, I have had the fantastic opportunity to be asked to coordinate two large scale COVID-19 vaccine trials over the past three months at my hospital. The knowledge I have gained surrounding trial design, management and even statistics as part of the Clinical Trials MSc has been invaluable in helping me to step up to this task and contribute to what has been a phenomenal team effort. Whilst dedicating the majority of my time towards coordinating vaccine trials has left little time for dissertation writing, the support and understanding I have received from both my dissertation tutors and the team at University of Edinburgh has been outstanding and has allowed me to prioritise my work on COVID-19 research.
Despite the current situation, my career has continued to flourish and I have most recently been awarded a role within a Clinical Trials Management Team as a Set-Up Specialist at another London NHS Trust for September. Working towards my MSc qualification has been fundamental in allowing me to apply for this position and undoubtedly will contribute towards my career progression in the future.
Although there may be trepidation surrounding the coming months, I am positive and excited to continue pushing towards the completion of my final year project and the prospect of attending my graduation in 2021, with or without a mask!