My job

Paediatric clinical research advanced nurse practitioner

Lucy Cooper, the only paediatric clinical research advanced nurse practitioner in the UK, talks about her inspiration and challenges

Lucy Cooper, the only paediatric clinical research advanced nurse practitioner in the UK, talks about her inspiration and challenges

What is your job?

My role as an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) in clinical research is to provide specialist expertise, advice and clinical care in the identification, assessment, treatment and management of children participating in research.

I lead on participant care for the duration of a trial, covering inclusion assessment, consent, medical history taking, systems examinations, specialised clinical skills such as intrathecal drug administration or skin biopsies, managing complex and challenging clinical incidents and prescribing trial drugs. I also provide clinical expertise, leadership and education to research nurses and other research professionals.

Why did you become a nurse?

I became a children’s nurse because I wanted to care for sick children and their families at some of the most difficult times in their lives. I knew a nursing career would offer lifelong learning. Being a nurse combined my passion to make a positive effect on the care children receive with academic learning and the application of evidence-based practice.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy pushing the boundaries of what is conventionally thought of as a research nurse’s role. By providing research and clinical care with medical colleagues while working in the nursing team, I can practice autonomously and demonstrate the need for an innovative career pathway for research nurses. I enjoy providing education, support and leadership to other research nurses.

What is your greatest challenge?

Being the only paediatric ANP in clinical research in the UK has meant that gaining understanding and recognition for this new role while setting the direction and pushing boundaries has taken time, as there is little evidence to benchmark its development. Another challenge is the clinical trial guidance that medical decisions and care should be the responsibility of a ‘qualified physician’ – I have to educate others that my level of education and experience qualifies me to do this.

What has given you most satisfaction?

Receiving positive feedback from children, families and colleagues on the success, importance and usefulness of the role. Parents report more continuity of care and fewer delays in treatment, doctors report a reduced burden on their clinical time, and I am available on-site to assist nurses when needed.

What nursing achievement makes you most proud?

Becoming the first paediatric clinical research ANP in the UK. I am proud to practice at this advanced level and influence the care and treatment options available to children and young people through the research I am involved in.

What or who inspires you, and why?

Children and families participating in clinical research and trials demonstrate altruism and dedication to the advancement of healthcare knowledge, drug development and treatment options. Without them research simply couldn’t happen.

What research projects are you currently working on?

A varied portfolio of early phase clinical trials on new drugs in medical conditions with no other treatment options, cohort studies investigating the causes of disease and links between risk factors and health outcomes. The research is in gastroenterology, endocrinology, nephrology and inherited metabolic disorders.

What tips would you give someone new to research in nursing?

Initially it may feel as if everyone is speaking a foreign language, with unfamiliar acronyms and terminology. Over time it will make sense as your knowledge of research develops. Embrace every new learning opportunity and work alongside other research nurses.

What is likely to affect nurses working in research over the next 12 months?

Clinical research is a national priority and there is demand for more complex and intense paediatric clinical trials using gene therapy and precision medicine. Nurses will be expected to develop their knowledge and clinical skills to deliver this new era of research.


Lucy Cooper is an advanced nurse practitioner at NIHR Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, England

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