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Report from Terry spokes

This year the CNRC employed three placement students to assist with the research studies currently being undertaken.

One of my main roles during this placement was to contribute to the co-ordination of a research study entitled SB202026/096. This study investigated the efficacy of a compound for the treatment of cognitive deficits in patients with schizophrenia. It is a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised study, which specifically investigates the efficacy and safety of the drug for the treatment of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. The drug is used as an add-on therapy to antipsychotics for 12 consecutive weeks.

I was involved with the patients from the first day they visit the centre for their screening day, all the way through until their last visit 5 months later, providing they completed the study as planned. During this period I was taught how to administer cognitive tests, such as CogTest, CNS Vital Signs, CVLT and CDR. Each patient was also required to complete a health and safety check on each visit which included checking blood pressure, a breath test, ECG, blood and urine sampling. I was instructed how to complete all of these procedures and also attended a one-day phlebotomy course. By the end of the study I was proficient in blood and urine sample analyses, which incorporates a variety of techniques to examine patient samples.

When my 8 month placement contract was completed, I was offered the position of Clinical Study Co-ordinator. Working in a small, but close team of researchers I was jointly responsible for the co-ordination of two clinical studies. The studies TC-1734-112-CRD-001 and TC-1734-112-CRD-002 investigated the effect of a medication on cognitive function, with special focus on memory. The two sets of participants had previously visited the centre to undergo a memory assessment and their results had been indicative of Age Associated Memory Impairment or Mild Cognitive Impairment respectively. I utilised the patient information collected in each volunteers case report form during these memory assessments to compile a database of volunteer variables.

The co-ordination of two studies running simultaneously was an extremely demanding and responsibility laden role, which often involved 13 hour days! The two groups of volunteers were required to visit the centre once a week for a period of 13 weeks. During these visits the participants were subjected to numerous cognitive performance measuring tasks and a full health and safety check-up, both of which I was trained to administer. As in the previous study, I had daily and in-depth patient contact and was responsible for information of a personal nature. I was also nominated to be the primary point of contact for another memory based study, but unfortunately this study did not commence at the planned time.
In addition to the cognitive testing, a huge part of the student’s role is to assist with the administrative demands of this study and those associated with general office management. This includes recording extensive patient details and ensuring patient files are fully completed. Each patient has two folders of information specific to them and it is imperative to ensure these folders are complete and accurate. Much of the student’s time will be dedicated to the monitoring of these folders and correction of inaccuracies in them, as indicated by the study monitor. It is also part of the role to monitor patient enrolment, withdrawals and to supply regular updates of these figures to the GSK study monitor.

Another of the most important components of this role is liasing with patients, GP’s, and a range of company’s from photocopying or taxi firms to blood collection and analysis clinics. This frequently involves international calls and a great deal of organisation, where further phone calls are often necessary. This administration is often very important as the analysis of human samples is limited by specific time constraints. For example, one of the student’s duties may be to arrange the same day transport of blood samples and the international couriering of PK samples to America in a 3-day window.

Good Points
The best aspect of this placement is that the students are given the opportunity to experience frequent and in-depth patient contact. During my placement, I have been given the opportunity to spend time alone with patients suffering from cognitive impairments such as Schizophrenia, Mild Cognitive Impairment, Age Associated Memory Impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. This patient contact is very interesting and will allow the student to learn a great deal regarding personal contact and develop essential skills. It is imperative to be constantly professional when involved in patient cases where information may be of a confidential and sensitive nature. However, it is also important to balance this professional manner with an approachable and caring demeanour in order to ease the patient and resolve any queries s/he may have.

This placement also allows the student to continually learn new skills and techniques. I have been taught how to perform a number of methods of data acquisition including: the CVLT, Cogtest battery, CDR battery, Central Flicker Fusion, Pre-Pulse Inhibition, Phlebotomy and MMSE. In addition to these the student will become competent in healthcare training procedures, including ECG acquisition, blood pressure and pulse acquisition, basic urine analysis, alcohol breath testing, serum and urine pregnancy testing, certified first aid training and certified automated defibrillation.

Bad Points
The bad points of this placement are more related to the role of a student in a work experience placement and not to the centre itself. As I’m sure is the case in nearly all student positions, when there is a slightly menial or unfavourable task the buck will inevitably stop with the student. This means that the student will occasionally be required to endure tasks that s/he may feel are not directly related to their desired career, but are part and parcel of the majority of positions. During this placement I have completed my fair share of these tasks including working on a mail-shot that required over 2000 envelopes to be packed and sent out over only a two-day period.


7 Twisleton Court, Priory Hill
Dartford
Kent DA1 2EN

Directions-By Car

1. From the A2 you need to take the exit Bexley/Dartford turn off and then head towards Dartford town centre.

2. You are now in Old Bexley Lane, continue straight, over the mini roundabout into Shepherds Lane.

3. You then need to follow the road all the way to the end until you come to a mini roundabout, you then need to turn right into West Hill, Priory Hill is the second turning on your left.

4. Twisleton Court is on your immediate left and No 7 is directly in front of you. There are visitor’s car parking spaces available right in front of the building.

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