In the rhythm of a study nurse
What exactly does a study nurse do? Ewelina Wozniak-Bauer provides an answer. Ewelina is a study nurse in the "Broadband Infrared Diagnostics" (BIRD) team of the attoworld group led by Prof. Ferenc Krausz from the Department of Experimental Physics-Laser Physics at Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU). She is responsible for patient recruitment in the team's current research study at the urology department of LMU Hospital in Großhadern.
In 2022, the study "Infrared Spectroscopy of Exprimate Urine and Blood for Prostate Cancer Detection" started. The aim of the study is to develop a non-invasive diagnostic test for prostate cancer. Is such a test even feasible? The test relies on high-sensitivity, laser-based field-resolved infrared spectroscopy. This method is not yet used for this purpose, but has enormous technological potential.
The principle: a laser pulse is sent through urine and blood samples. Minimal changes in the laser light after passing through the samples can provide information about a disease if one learns to interpret them correctly.
And what role does the work of a study nurse play in the clinic? At Großhadern, my most important task is to collect blood and urine samples from patients diagnosed with prostate cancer. Recruiting different control subjects is also one of my tasks. It is important that sample collection and processing are extremely accurate and follow well-defined protocols.
Searching for potential patients through the hospital's internal systems is my daily routine. In addition, I must ensure that all team members, including physicians and nurses, are aware of my daily recruitment plan.
I observe the challenges that healthcare professionals face. Time and staff shortages often characterize the daily clinic routine. Therefore, it is a difficult task to ensure that recruitment takes place without interruption. Even when there is the daily hustle on the ward.
Our patients often feel overwhelmed when they find themselves in the unfamiliar hospital environment. In addition, Covid-19 brings the challenges of anxious patients not being allowed to be accompanied by family or close friends at times. Therefore, it is enormously important to establish a personal relationship with those affected, especially when they share their personal stories related to the disease. By talking to the patients, they become aware of the importance of our research project and many are proud to be able to contribute to the study. However, some also express regret that this method is not available at this time. Nevertheless, they are hopeful that their participation could help those who will be diagnosed with a disease in the future, perhaps even their children and grandchildren. After I have enrolled the patients in our study and obtained the samples, further processing takes place in the laboratory and finally the samples are frozen at -80 degrees. Then the precious cargo is transported to our Research Center in Garching. There it is further processed by my colleagues in the research laboratory. This is followed by laser measurements and data analysis using very powerful computers. So my work at Großhadern is the first important step in a long chain of processes.
From our experience so far, we have learned that the success of our clinical studies lies in the joint effort of scientists and medical professionals. After a challenging initial phase in which the processes in the hospital first had to be established, I was able to overcome the challenges. We are proud to have enrolled the first 150 patients in the study. So the project, which is now running successfully, begins with the work of a study nurse!