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For Parkinson’s Awareness Week, Steve Dodds, a clinical research nurse, talks about his work on studies into the disease

Sunday, 11 April, 2021
For Parkinson’s Awareness Week, Steve Dodds, a clinical research nurse, talks about his work on studies into the disease

I am a clinical research nurse and in simple terms I look for potential patients for studies and if appropriate make an approach to recruit them to research. I then coordinate all assessments and team members for the duration of the study while ensuring patient safety throughout. The types of research I have been involved in range from simple questionnaire studies to complex clinical trials of new drugs at various stages in their development.

Before starting my nurse training, I worked in social care and enjoyed looking after people and being able to make a difference to them. I qualified as a nurse 21 years ago in March 2000 and other than a couple of years working on a neurology/max fax (maxillofacial) ward and three years as a Parkinson’s disease nurse specialist, I have been involved in research.

A real difficulty we have at the moment is getting patients to come to hospital for study visits given the potential exposure to Covid-19. There always will be some patients who don’t want to take part in research, which is fair enough, but thankfully most patients are generally reassured given the lengths we go to to ensure their safety when on-site. Plus, most study sponsors have responded to the challenges posed by this and have adapted protocols to minimise the number of visits, with some studies now being run entirely remotely using a combination of telephone calls and video calls.

Previously, my sole focus was on research patients, particularly those with Parkinson’s disease. More recently, I have been involved with urgent public health (UPH) studies involving patients with Covid-19. In addition, as a department we have been helping with vaccinating Northumbria staff and other staff groups which has been really interesting and satisfying.

From this last year, I will always remember the constant changing of workload and priorities as the Covid -19 virus spread, meaning that the whole department had to adapt to the changing environment at short notice. New skills and ways of working have been developed to manage research studies in these times.

I have always enjoyed the variety of the work that we do and the different people that I meet as part of this role. It is often a rewarding job as the quality of life of patients can be improved by the research we are conducting. It is also really positive to see people volunteering take part in research which won’t necessarily help themselves but will help others in the future.

One of the most interesting studies that I have been involved in and recruited patients for was looking at compounds found on the surface of the skin. This came about after a lady described a change to her husband’s body odour that she had noticed before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This study was recently in the news again as scientists are hopeful that this research could soon lead to a new testing strategy to aid diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.