Clinical trials provide hope for patients during COVID-19

Jackie Wangui-Verry, MSN, RN-BC

Jackie Wangui-Verry, MSN, RN-BC, knew she was caring for some of the most vulnerable people during the most vulnerable time in modern history. The assistant director of the Clinical Research Unit (CRU) oversees day-to-day operations and supervises the CRU clinical staff.

Located inside UI Hospitals & Clinics, the CRU runs adult and pediatric trials for multiple disorders. Their mission is to support future human subject research, expand studies, and investigate multiple disorders that don’t have a cure. The CRU includes medical staff, including nurses, medical assistants, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, and lab technicians.

Collaboration is critical to the CRU’s effectiveness, not only during the pandemic, but also in the daily operations of the unit. The CRU team works together to achieve the optimal outcome for their patients.

“Our nurses are phenomenal,” says Wangui-Verry. “They provide not only the nursing care, but the human touch.”

Continued care despite the challenges

COVID-19 impacted the lives of everyone in the nation. But imagine having to navigate life during a pandemic with a life-altering diagnosis. Wangui-Verry wanted those patients to continue receiving personalized therapy, despite the challenges involved.

That uninterrupted care is especially critical for the people treated in the CRU: patients who may not have a current cure for their disease.

“Clinical trials are important because this is how we arrive at new therapies for people who don’t have therapy options. They bring hope,” says Wangui-Verry.

Ensuring patient access to therapy and nursing care during the COVID-19 outbreak was vital, but for Wangui-Verry, so was providing support for crucial COVID-19 studies.

Personalized care during the pandemic

In addition to adding new COVID-19 studies to their regular research, CRU staff members made special arrangements to treat current clients during the pandemic, including two children with a rare and incurable genetic disorder.

“We adjusted our schedule and staffing to accommodate those two families. If there’s any chance this drug can slow the progression, we wanted to expedite that process for them to receive this life-altering investigational product,” says Wangui-Verry.

Amid another research trial, one young boy with an incurable degenerative disease broke a bone. Not only did that bone heal, but he’s now able to jump, a crucial milestone when it comes to his disease. Because the patient lives out of state, CRU staff arranged for him to receive infusions in his home state during COVID-19. Wangui-Verry said the boy’s Mom sent videos and told her how much his family appreciated the medical treatment he received at UI Health Care.

Wangui-Verry says her CRU team provides hope for patients who often don’t have any. “We want to provide that healing touch to our patients.”