TCRN-supported PhD students take a break from the bench to visit Cancer Wards

5 August 2014
TCRN PhD Students educational tour of cancer wards

As part of TCRN’s PhD development program, the TCRN organised a tour of the cancer wards at Prince of Wales Hospital for the TCRN supported PhD students

TCRN’s PhD development program is a part of TCRN’s effort to foster the TCRN-supported students to be ‘translational aware’.   The cancer ward tour took the students from the bench and their computer screen to visit the cancer wards and meet cancer clinicians.  

Christie Norris and Natalie Maier, nurse managers from SESLHD (South Eastern Sydney Local Health District) and TCRN members, generously found time in their busy schedule to take the young researchers around the wards and discussed different cancer treatments and current clinical trials.

From Christie, a long-time Research Nurse, students learned how clinical trials are run and managed. It was quite impressive to learn that Christie and her team are currently managing over 60 clinical trials in all three phases and that some of the studies had been going on for more than 10 years.  In many cases, patient recruitment has been most challenging often due to very narrow and specific recruitment criteria as participants with certain gene mutations are recruited.  

Natalie, a nurse manager from Haematology unit, took the students around her ward and described different cancer treatments in her haematology unit such as blood transfusion and stem cell transplants for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. It was quite amazing to see Natalie and her team successfully juggling and managing multiple cases and treatments all at once.  According to Natalie, however, the day of our visit was a relatively quiet day with not too many critical situations and patients. Natalie also emphasized the importance of strong teamwork and multi-discipline efforts in patient care among doctors, nurses, psychologists, allied health professionals, and social workers.

“(after the tour) I got an idea of what Christie and Natalie do to help cancer patients. I particularly got a lot out of the clinical trials discussion and how they interact with doctors every week to discuss their patients. I had no idea of the close connection between nurses and doctors,” said Melissa Desouza.

Sylvia Chung added that “it’s very important to see what is really involved with a clinical trial that is the ultimate endpoint that we are trying to get to as basic scientist at the T1 end of translation and having an opportunity to meet and communicate with clinical trial nurses was a wonderful experience.”

Claire Henry further added that “as research scientists I think it is critical to have a connection to the real clinical world. It is very important to extend your knowledge to patient care, treatment, clinical trials and hospital logistics. The TCRN has been fantastic in providing opportunities for me to improve my knowledge on cancer treatment and patient care.” 

The TCRN PhD program provides opportunities for building practical skills to be successful PhD students and for developing awareness of the other end of clinical and patient care so that students see how their cancer research fits into the big picture of cancer care. 

How the students make the most of the TCRN’s PhD development program and where they take this to will be up to them, but the TCRN believes that an awareness of the big picture will in the long run help the students’ research to become more clinically informed cancer researchers. 

The TCRN sends special thanks to Christie and Natalie for finding time in their busy schedule for our young researchers.  

For more information on TCRN-supported students visit 'TCRN Top-up Awardees'.