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Coronavirus Diaries: The new normal way of working

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Olivia Barnes is a Senior Research Nurse at Sherbourne Medical Centre in Leamington Spa. In this series of weekly posts she discusses how COVID-19 is impacting the clinical trials she is working on, as well as her work on studies in response to the virus. Read previous entries here.

We’ve now settled into a bit of a pattern - I don't like to use the old cliché, but it seems to be we now have a ‘new normal’ and a bit of a routine.

Our Healthcare Assistant has continued to do very well with the serology study, that we are working on with patients coming in for blood tests. We now have 51 who have taken part in that and only one person wasn’t keen out of everybody our HCA asked. So that's very good. I just ordered a lot more tests, but there aren’t any supplies at the minute – I’m going to keep checking the website and hope I can soon order more.

For the other studies, we currently only have one new recruit eligible for the self-swabbing study, which takes us to five – all of which have tested negative so far. The University of Oxford doing the antimalarial study are widening the net to see if they can get more people onto the study by having a nationwide recruitment drive on that. Plus, there's another potential point of contact test study we've been asked about from the RCGP with University of Oxford, and are looking at that.

Away from studies, I’m using my time to do mandatory training and we're having a good look at our archive here. We’re only a small surgery, but we've got an enormous amount of studies archived which we have to keep for 25 years or more sometimes. We have three cupboards full of boxes - sometimes three for a single study so a lot of space needed for 25 years of storage. They are mostly physical records at the moment, but hopefully this is something else that will keep changing so we reduce the amount of paper used. We are using more electronic methods for research already.

I've also been looking at the RCGP and NIHR sites to see what other studies are taking place, and if we can help with any – have a look here, here and here for example.


A new way of working

Every Monday I send an email to all clinical stuff - and in fact at the minute it's everybody in the practice because the whole practice needs to be on board when you're doing research like this – to tell them what studies we’re doing and what numbers we've got, to keep it at the front of their mind. Obviously, I’m reliant on the partners or reception who are taking the telephone calls, to then pass the patients’ details on to me.

Luckily very few of our staff have been off sick. We have quite a strict regime around opening the door and what the reception staff wear, and we have a very good cleaning regime after we've used our desks. Even our coffee breaks have been as per the social distancing guidelines. When patients come into the surgery, they ring a bell and then they come in one at a time. Very, very seldom is there anybody actually in the waiting room because they just come in as their appointment is due.

We were lucky, as we’ve been doing telephone triage for over a year, but I do know a lot of GP surgeries who weren't doing that have struggled. It takes a while to settle into it as it is a very, very different way of working for everybody – the reception staff, the patient and the doctor.

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