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Tales of a Research Nurse completing visits during COVID-19, II

Sara Di Paola, Italy based Research Nurse

Covid-19 has certainly changed the world we live in, but for me and my patients their care has been able to continue. Something which is important to all of us.

What are the differences? Mainly, it is more complicated to travel now: there are fewer flights or trains, and often it is better and easier to travel by car. But this did mean driving long distances. During our lockdown, in Italy, there was no opportunity to stay in a hotel, so we had to do any travel in the same day. Which was incredibly tough and tiring. One of my patient visits was a 14hour round trip, which I completed in one day.

You must always take your self-declaration document with the reason you are travelling. It has become like my passport, even though I am at home. I also choose to try to avoid stopping to eat, so I do not have to enter any crowded places. Meaning I would eat in my car, I spent an unhealthy amount of time in my car!

It has also changed the relationship between nurses and patients. For me, the worst thing about Covid-19. Patients are now “scared” of me because I am a nurse and nurses are often associated with illness… so I complete the visit (in full PPE) in the shortest possible time and leave immediately after. Before Covid-19, we dedicated time not only to the visit but also to the patients and their families who really appreciated that time and care. I have missed getting to know my patients and their families on a more personal level, these chats are also important as they can sometime provide feedback about the study which a sponsor may not have discovered otherwise.

For this part, fortunately, we have technology on our side to help! Patients call us often (above all children) not only for study issues/questions/and so on, but also to share other things. I have been sent drawings, photos, and videos, to help keep us all smiling. For example, I used WhatsApp to video call and help a little patient of mine with him maths exercises.