" I recently had a ‘first in the world’ moment, where I gave a drug to a patient which had never been administered. It is so exciting to be part of an organisation that drives world leading research. "
MAY 2022: MOLLY ROBERTSON - RESEARCH NURSE, CLINICAL TRIALS
I love being a nurse. I think we are so lucky in this profession because it's challenging, rewarding and every day is different. One of the reasons I became a nurse is because I enjoy being with people. I always dreamt of being an emergency nurse. I loved the adrenaline of all the trauma cases coming through - that is my jam! But it was oncology that ultimately stole my heart.
I am currently a senior research nurse for the Parkville Cancer Clinical Trials Unit (PCCTU) here at Peter Mac. I work in the aggressive lymphoma space. We research all things Lymphoma, including Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, Follicular Lymphoma, and Mantle Cell Lymphoma.
I studied at the University of Sydney and completed my training at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. I was offered my graduate year there where I rotated through Orthopaedics and Oncology.
After my graduate year, I fell in love with oncology nursing and decided this was the area I wanted my career to be in. I love the journey you experience with oncology patients. Whether you've met them right at the beginning of their diagnosis or even at the end. I was drawn to the impact that you can have on patients and their quality of life. While people assume oncology is sad, I don't think that is always the case. I believe it's more special because we get to know people over a long period of time. We really get to know their story.
I wanted a new challenge and thought moving to Melbourne would be ideal - plus Melbourne as a city has more to offer than Sydney! I ended up working at the Royal Melbourne Hospital on the Haematology/Bone Marrow Transplant ward.
To be honest, at first, I hated haematology. I found it very intense and confusing - but it was the challenge I was looking for. Now it’s my specialty. Working on the haematology/bone marrow transplant ward, I was able to be with patients from diagnosis and then all the way through their transplant and beyond.
I knew deep down that I wanted to try research at some point. My dad was a research nurse too, so I think he probably had some impact on me. An opportunity came up to join the Haem B research team at Peter Mac and four years later, I’m still here.
I still use my clinical nursing skills but there are obviously days where I have to sit at a desk and punch in numbers as well. But it's all for a good cause. We are trying to get new drugs to market and we can't get those drugs to market unless we have the data for it. Most importantly, we are trying to provide new treatment options for patients for a better quality of life.
" I feel like sometimes, the perception of research nurses is that we are only focused on data, but we are so much more than that! Research nurses are still very much focused on patient care. It's just in a different capacity. "
I am a proud research nurse and am fortunate to have a unit that supports my career growth and professional development. I keep saying that it is an exciting time to be a research nurse due to the new treatment opportunities we are working with. There is an increasing complexity of clinical trials and a growing need to develop more specialist research nurse pathways. My goal is to become a Nurse Practitioner within PCCTU and continue to educate and support my colleagues, as they have done for me.
I recently had a ‘first in the world’ moment, where I gave a drug to a patient which had never been administered. It is so exciting to be part of an organisation that drives world leading research. These drugs are in different clinical trial stages, so they don’t even have names yet, just a number! I love that in twenty years’ time, I can look back at these moments and be proud of everything I contributed to. Being part of an organisation that creates impact and change on a global scale is why I come to work every day.
Sometimes you can work really hard on a trial and the drug unfortunately doesn’t work. As you can imagine, this is quite upsetting and frustrating. We dedicate our lives to these trials and we know they could be something really great. That’s all part of the research process though, which I have so much respect for.
During the first year of the pandemic, I had a patient who moved from New Zealand away from her kids and her husband to have treatment on one of our trials. I can honestly say I probably became her biggest support because she didn't have anyone here and she couldn’t fly back and forth from New Zealand due to border closures. She stayed here for six months to have treatment and follow up. It can be tough to watch these kinds of sacrifices our patients have to make for a chance to improve their quality of life, particularly when there are never any guarantees. Those six months were really tough for her and her family, but it was worth it. This patient is now in remission and back in New Zealand with her family.
Sometimes our patients relapse and we try to get them on different trials, but there aren’t always other options. It’s your teammates that you lean on in those moments. My partner is a teacher and while he is my biggest support, he isn’t a nurse and can’t fully understand. To be fair, I am not interested in dealing with thirty 10-year-olds either! I love my team and the bond we share gets us through all the ups and downs that research nursing can bring.