My job

My job: clinical research nurse Abby Harper-Payne

Clinical research nurse Abby Harper-Payne explains why working in the emergency department keeps her on her toes. 

What is your job?

Abby Harper-Payne

I am a clinical research nurse for neurosurgery, emergency and trauma at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London. My role involves supporting research across neurosurgery, emergency and trauma. I offer guidance at all stages of the research process from project conception through to dissemination and outputs. As well as running my own research projects, I support clinical colleagues with protocol writing, grant applications, ethical approvals, study set up, project management and data analysis.

Why did you become an emergency nurse?

I can’t imagine doing anything else. The fast paced environment keeps me on my toes and I have the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills in a fully multidisciplinary setting. Emergency nursing encourages autonomous practice while providing the support and guidance of an experienced, close-knit team.

What might you have done otherwise?

My final placement as a student nurse was in the community setting. I very much enjoyed the autonomy and the ability to see progression in your patients.

How and where have you developed your emergency care skills?

I went to the emergency department (ED) as a newly qualified nurse in East Kent Hospitals University Hospital after securing a job in the trust where I trained. I took on a trust preceptorship programme and following this, a 4-month rotation to resuscitation where I received excellent support from my colleagues. After a year, I moved to Imperial College Healthcare to pursue my interest in trauma, joining the ED at St Mary’s Major Trauma Centre. There I received a National Institute for Health Research studentship to do a Masters in clinical research.

How does your current job make use of these?

It requires not only a clear grasp of research practices, but also experience of the clinical setting and patient population; the training and support I received while working in EDs have provided me with both of these.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced, and how have you overcome it?

Death is always a huge challenge no matter how long you have been qualified, or how much experience you have. Working in an ED we see this more often than most. It never gets easier and I never lose the emotion attached but I have learned coping strategies that make me better equipped to deal with loss.

What makes a good emergency nurse?

Resilience and perpetual cheeriness. I start every shift smiling and aim to go home that way – no matter what the ED brings you, your colleagues and patients are relying on you. Most people we see are there as a result of an unpleasant experience. If we as nurses can welcome them and offer care and compassion, hopefully that makes their day a little brighter.

What advice would give a nurse who’s starting out in emergency care?

Make your own opportunities and don’t wait for them to come to you. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge in your colleagues so make use of that. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; the best students I have worked with are the ones who know their limitations and when to ask for help.

What is likely to affect emergency nurses most over the next 12 months?

Continuing increases in ED attendances and issues with recruitment and retention. Along with the loss of NHS student bursaries, changes in junior doctor rotas and the pressure to meet targets, keeping up morale will be key in retaining staff and maintaining a cohesive and effective ED workforce.

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