Meghan Meyer is like most nurses – compassionate, hardworking and organized. But that’s only the beginning of the many skills and attributes she uses in her job as a clinical research nurse in Leukemia. It’s her job to recruit patients for clinical trials, follow their progress, and coordinate their care after studies end.
“Most people don’t know what a research nurse does,” says Meyer. “It’s a role that requires specific training and know-how.”
Put simply, research nurses ensure that clinical studies designed to test new cancer treatments run smoothly and that participating patients are safe and fully informed.
A tight-knit group leading myelodysplastic syndrome clinical trials
Meyer mainly works with clinical trials for myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS – a rare group of disorders that occur when the body no longer makes enough healthy blood cells. About one-third of patients progress to a rapidly growing cancer of the bone marrow cells called acute myeloid leukemia, or AML.
Meyer’s clinical trial team, headed by Guillermo Garcia-Manero, M.D., professor of Leukemia, is a tight-knit group that bonded from the get-go.
“We meet weekly to discuss the status of each patient,” she says, “and we share information about how to best maintain quality of life for potential patients in these trials.”
Every clinical trial follows a detailed plan called a protocol. Research nurses manage the protocols’ clinical and operational details. This includes recruiting patients for clinical trials, educating them about the details of the study and guiding them through the consent process, as well as following each patient’s progress throughout the study and coordinating their follow-up care after the study ends.
“Each protocol includes several patients,” Meyer explains. “My team is working on 19 active protocols, with another seven in the pipeline in various stages of development. Organization is everything.”
The reward in supporting clinical trials: relationships with patients
Meyer joined MD Anderson two years ago after graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University and working as a nurse at the University of Florida Cancer Center. Interacting with patients is the best part of her job, she says.
“My role allows me to connect with patients for many months, or even years,” she says. “The relationships we build are especially rewarding. When I took a position in research, I worried I’d miss being at the bedside, but I quickly realized a research nurse’s role is centered around what I enjoy most about the profession.”