Quality in Motion: Meet Our Mobile Clinicians: Nikki Degreeff

Quality in Motion: Meet Our Mobile Clinicians: Nikki Degreeff

Meet Nikki Degreeff, a Clinical Project Manager who began her journey with PCM Trials as a Certified Mobile Research Nurse (CMRN). CMRNs support clinical trial participation beyond a physical research site by traveling to trial participants anytime, anywhere to perform mobile visits. Through a series of questions, Nikki offers an intimate look into the impactful and challenging world of CMRNs, highlighting their crucial contributions to advancing clinical research.

Q: Can you discuss your role as a CMRN with PCM Trials, including unique career development opportunities and how those experiences have enriched your nursing career and shaped your professional growth?

A: Nurses take on additional procedures in clinical research that are typically delegated to other individuals in the hospital; for example, blood processing. In the hospital, this is done by a laboratory but in the home, this is an essential skill of a CMRN. Learning how to process blood made me a better nurse and challenged me to improve some of my nursing practices.

Depending on your availability and willingness to travel (locally or nationally), opportunities with PCM Trials are endless as a CMRN. Different trials have different procedures and levels of interaction with the study team or sites. I reached out to PCM Trials to see if there were other career paths internally and how I could build my resume to grow into various positions. This was the catalyst for my professional growth and career change from the hospital environment to the corporate clinical research environment supporting CMRNs and clinical trials.

Q: What key skills and qualities are essential for success in a CMRN role, and how does PCM Trials support the development of these skills? What innovative approaches and techniques have you employed in mobile trials that have enhanced study efficiency and patient experience?

A: A key skill and quality essential for success as a CMRN is being autonomous, self-motivated, and a critical thinker. PCM Trials provides robust training tailored to each individual protocol and provides robust training to the nurse to ensure comprehension. Sometimes visit procedures include long periods of monitoring and downtime. I often improved patient experiences by having meaningful conversations and connections with adults or bringing something as simple as a puzzle from the dollar store for a pediatric participant to pass the time.

Q: How did you ensure high-quality, patient-centric care during mobile visits, and what measures did you take to maintain strict adherence to clinical trial protocols and standards during mobile visits?

A: I always ensured I was following the protocol and training. If I felt like I needed to deviate, I would reach out to the project team for direction because I understand the importance of strict adherence. Unlike the bedside where nurses can flex practices to the patient’s needs, research nurses cannot deviate from established procedures without an investigator’s direction.

Once I accepted a patient to see, I would ensure continuity by becoming the primary nurse and flexing my schedule to accommodate that patient’s visit needs. This allowed me to get to know their personal preferences during visits. The ease of scheduling and allowing them to trust my abilities helps with retention, one of the greatest challenges in clinical trials.

Q: Can you describe how your role as a CMRN directly contributed to the success and integrity of clinical trials and how the work of CMRNs helps advance the field of clinical research?

A: CMRNs are vital to the success and integrity of clinical trials by collecting and reporting data. By entering the home of research participants and following established visit procedures, a CMRN’s ability to perform builds trust with our clients and allows data to be interpreted and treatments to be developed and approved. Our CMRNs often hold esteemed positions outside of PCM Trials and are experts in their areas of practice. Hiring and employing such specialized nurses who are up-to-date with evidence-based best practices allows PCM Trials to effectively tailor our nurse assignments to the participant’s needs. Depending on their age or comorbidity, we can match them to an expert clinician. This improves our reputation as a leader because we don’t just provide a nurse, but rather a nurse with certifications and past experiences with the disease process under study.

Q: What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your role as a CMRN as compared to traditional nursing positions, and can you share an example of a memorable study that you’ve served during your career?

A: What I found most rewarding was the ability to connect and develop meaningful relationships with my patients. During visits, you are dedicated completely to them and do not have competing priorities. This also presents one of the biggest challenges of the job; that is, being alone and not having a fellow nurse to lend a hand or provide additional support. In traditional nursing positions, you often feel rushed due to competing priorities and do not always have the time to develop authentic connections. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was part of a study that deployed CMRNs nationwide into nursing facilities to administer monoclonal antibodies to vulnerable populations. I would respond to outbreaks around the nation within 24-48 hours and spent many months living in hotels.

Q: How has working as a CMRN with PCM Trials provided you with personal and professional fulfillment, and what would you say to nurses considering this career path?

A: When I was hired by PCM Trials, I was a bedside nurse with a background in critical care and leadership. For years I juggled my role in the hospital and worked as a CMRN on my days off. Like many nurses, I experienced burnout at the bedside that was exacerbated by the challenges of the pandemic. Working as a CMRN renewed my passion for nursing and I started exploring how to make clinical research my full-time job. In 2021, I transitioned from a CMRN to a Clinical Project Manager. I have never been more fulfilled in my career and while I no longer work directly with patients, I still feel like I am making an impact and interacting with CMRNs on a daily basis. To nurses considering this career path as a CMRN, I would say be patient with yourself. There is quite a learning curve going from a bedside nurse to a clinical research nurse. Take the necessary time to absorb the new skills and procedures and ask questions.

Nikki’s story not only offers a behind-the-scenes look at the impact of CMRNs on clinical research and patient care; it is also a call to action for the next generation of CMRNs, ready to leave their mark on the world of clinical research.

Learn more about how PCM Trials can support your clinical development program.

Email: [email protected] or Phone: 303‐253‐7470.

Interested in becoming a CMRN? View our available clinical research nurse positions here.