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Lucy Paterson (NDS) and Teya Agnese (NDORMS) from the Surgical Intervention Trials Unit (SITU) describe the fun challenge of delivering an online SITU session to this year's NDS work experience students.

Surgical Intervention Trials Unit (SITU) Work Experience 2020 - SITU, NDS, NDORMS and Oxford logos.

Every July, NDS runs a work experience week for GCSE and A Level students who have an interest in healthcare and clinical research. During this week, students will gain an insight to work undertaken in these areas, including lab work among other things.

The SITU sessions that we run offers an introduction to clinical research and the development and running of Clinical Trials. These sessions are usually delivered face to face within the Botnar Research Centre, however of course this year, things had to be run slightly differently! Thankfully, the SITU team have become something of experts on the use of Microsoft Teams while working from home, so when it was announced that the work experience session would be held virtually for the first time, we were ready for the challenge. The session needed something of a rethink, however, as we usually run a 'Chocolate Trial', where students are offered either dark or white chocolate and then take a memory test. Of course this could not be done remotely, so we brainstormed and decided upon a task for the students to undertake - developing a Participant Information Sheet from a Trial Protocol. This was agreed upon as it is a task that Trial Managers have to do as part of their job role, making it actual work experience! We had great feedback on this and both sets of students did a fantastic job of putting together the PIS in the three hours they were given. 

In addition to the Task, we had some fantastic presentations on Data Management (from Heidi Fletcher and Akiko Greshon), Apprenticeships (from Teya Agnese and Katie Chegwin) and Trial Management (from Jo Cook). We finished up the session with a quiz on what the students had learned using Vevox (an interactive online platform for polls and surveys), which is something else we've been using since working from home! Vevox was also used to gain feedback and overall, the students indicated that they had found the sessions very informative and engaging! 

I sat in on last year's session, so I really enjoyed being more involved this year and contributing with new ideas to accommodate the switch to Microsoft Teams! I also had the opportunity to deliver the introductory presentation, which was my first experience with virtual 'public' speaking; I found this somewhat challenging, as you can't see people's faces for feedback -while you're screen sharing, but I appreciated the experience and look forward to doing more and improving my skills in the future!



Introduction to Clinical Trials and SITU

Presented by Lucy Paterson.

In this, I covered what clinical research is, what clinical research looks at (e.g. medicine, operations, physiotherapy, new technologies), what is reviewed within a trial (e.g. safety, affordability), why we do clinical research, what to consider when putting together a trial (e.g. benefits to patient, clinical community, recruitment, how long it will take/ cost) and a brief trial timeline. 


The Role of the Data Manager

Presented by Heidi Fletcher and Akiko Greshon

In Aki's presentation, she covered what clinical data management is, the general process of a clinical trial focusing in on the area of the trial timeline where patient data is collected. This included how the data is collected (paper/ electronic collection), what a data manager does (e.g. enter data, raise queries, chase queries, extract data, liaise with the trial team) and finally what skills area required to be a data manager (e.g. attention to details, good communication, computer skills, logical thinking).

In Heidi's presentation, she discussed the types of data collected in clinical trials (health economics, secondary data, safety data, protocol compliance, primary data), where it is collected from and ensuring that the data we collect is a good quality by creating a Data Management Plan and working with the trial statisticians to complete data locks to monitor the data from multiple perspectives. 


All About Apprenticeships

Presented by Teya Agnese and Katie Chegwin

During this presentation, Teya and Katie informed the students about what an apprenticeship is, the opportunities available with University of Oxford Apprenticeships and what we do as Clinical Trial Support Officers/ admin staff in SITU. 


The Role of the Trial Manager

Presented by Jo Cook

Jo shared her career journey from a nurse to a trial manager, her roles and responsibilities in trial management from the set up of a trial to the end of the trial (e.g. Trial design, trial set-up, the general running of a trial on a daily basis, site visits, managing site queries, updating the protocol, reporting, database close, publication and archiving) and the current trial that she is working on. 


Introduction to Clinical Trial Protocols and PIS

Presented by Lucy Davies

Lucy introduced to the students what a protocol is within a clinical trial including the different parts of the protocol, who reads the protocol/ is involved with it's development and what a Participant Information Sheet (PIS) is. This then led onto the first activity: 'Drafting a PIS from a Protocol.' 


Activity: Drafting a PIS from a Protocol

Presented by Lucy Davies (with support from Damian Haywood)




Review of Student drafted PIS’s

Reviewed by Damian Haywood and Lottie Davies


Clinical Trial Quiz

Presented by Lucy Paterson


Follow up questions from students

Answered by Damian Haywood and Lottie Davies


End of session!



All of the students commented that they found the sessions really interesting and enjoyable.

  • "I loved the SITU day due to its interactive manner and found it interesting to learn about just how many people there are involved in clinical trials."
  • "I found the activity where we had to write a Patient Information Sheet for a clinical trial really interesting and useful. I had pretty much no knowledge of what goes into a clinical trial before coming on this work experience and that activity gave me a real appreciation of how the process runs from start to finish."
  • "Understanding how trials work opened my eyes to the complexity of a clinical trial. The variety of staff involved, including statisticians, clinical research scientists, trial managers and data managers, showed me the sheer organisation that is required from start to finish. Writing my own PIS was certainly a useful experience, as I developed my written communication skills and improved my ability to extract information for an appropriate audience."
  • "I am not currently considering doing an apprenticeship. However, it was still a valuable presentation as I am now aware of the options available and will keep it in mind for the future."

Also, a huge thanks to Louise King for helping to set up the Teams meetings and collating all of the documents for the students ahead of time. 

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