In order to conduct meaningful clinical research, it is necessary to have a research coordinator. I consider research coordinators to be the “glue” of clinical research: they check that research projects meet scientific and medical standards, recruit and schedule participants, and conduct experiments. Nicole Steiner is the clinical research coordinator of the Gynecological Research Lab at NorthShore University HealthSystem, which investigates period pain and chronic pelvic pain in women. Here’s a glimpse into her work.
“There is no ordinary day for me as a research coordinator,” says Ms. Steiner. Today, her day is a mix of experiments and recruitment. In the morning, she is conducting an assessment visit with a participant in one of the lab’s period pain studies. In this particular study, the goal is to figure out how differences in blood flow to the uterus affect the severity of period cramping pain. To do this, the lab uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a non-invasive way of visualizing tissues inside the body, to look at blood flow in the uterus during a participant’s period. “In the assessment visit, I’ll go over the study with the participant and receive their written consent. Next, I’ll ask them to fill out some questionnaires describing their period pain at that moment and also in general. This information is useful because it allows to examine if pain severity is connected to the results we will receive from the imaging. After she finishes the questionnaires, I will prepare the participant for imaging and make sure she’s comfortable during the process. Usually, this sort of visit lasts for a couple of hours.” Afterwards, Ms. Steiner makes sure all the questionnaire data is appropriately stored until it is needed to be analyzed.
After the experimental visit, Ms. Steiner shifts her focus to recruiting participants for the lab’s studies. “Usually people contact us online or call in to let us know that they’re interested in helping. I really enjoy talking with participants and hearing their stories.” Talking and connecting with participants allows Ms. Steiner to be involved with the human side of clinical research, and to see how passionately people want to help advance scientific research.