‘Uniquely Positioned to Improve Care’: The Important Role of Nurses in Research
After 17 years as a clinical nurse and nurse-in-charge in Hematology/Oncology, Caitlin Guerrero, MSN, RN, CNL, OCN, transitioned to a new role as nursing program director for Oncology Research two years ago. In this Q&A, she shares her passion for oncology nursing, her interest in research and her perspective on the important role that nurses can play in advancing research and innovation to improve the care and experience of patients and loved ones.
Q: What inspired you to go into nursing?
CG: I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field and take care of people. My grandmother was a lifelong emergency room nurse, and she inspired me with her stories. They were always the perfect blend of science, compassion and lots of humor.
Q: You have worked in oncology nursing for your entire career. What do you most enjoy about this specialty?
CG: I enjoy the relationship-based care of oncology patients. You truly get to know your patients and their families as individuals. You can make a big difference by helping to guide them through their hospitalization and providing them with a sense of security at a challenging time. I love educating patients and providing comfort with knowledge.
Q: When did you become interested in oncology research?
CG: I became interested in oncology research as a NIC on Braunwald Tower 4B. We were fortunate to take the lead on multiple clinical trials. I love the structure and technical aspects of the care of patients in clinical trials. It is extremely exciting to watch innovation change how we treat and manage cancer.
Q: What does your role entail?
CG: My scope and responsibilities are constantly evolving. I am the bridge between the outpatient care of patients in clinical trials at DFCI and their inpatient care at the Brigham. I provide direct education and support to all nursing staff caring for patients in oncology clinical trials at the Brigham. More broadly, I represent the voice of nursing as trials are reviewed for feasibility and logistics.
Q: You recently published a study and have presented on pre-discharge patient teaching. What led you to this work?
CG: Education is a crucial part of successful outcomes for our bone marrow transplant patients. I was interested in finding a way to ensure all our patients received consistent education and had the time to process and ask questions prior to their discharge day. There is so much going on physically and emotionally for these patients. For that reason, structured education with a caregiver present is essential to a safe discharge.
Q: Did your study change our practices at the bedside?
CG: The study made an impact on the time patients are discharged from the hospital. By implementing pre-discharge teaching, we were able to help patients leave two to three hours early on the day of discharge.
Q: Why is it important for nurses to engage in research and innovation?
CG: As nurses, we have a wealth of knowledge about our patients and can have a huge impact on outcomes. Our voice is needed in research because the nurse is uniquely positioned to improve the care we provide.
Q: What advice would you give to a nurse who is interested in research but isn’t sure where to start?
CG: My advice would be to start small. Listen to the nurses around you. There is always something we could be doing better for our patients. Be creative and look to the literature. Reach out to our resources. We have so many people who are willing to help and guide you.