Nursing the Future: Improving patient outcomes through research 

Sunday 12 May 2024

A desire to improve the inequity of suffering led nurse Karyn Foster into a career as a Mater Research Clinical Trials Coordinator. Karyn, who has worked at Mater for 17 years, facilitates high-quality clinical trials that further research into Palliative and Supportive Care at the Mater Cancer Care Centre.  

Today on International Nurses Day, we celebrate and thank our nearly 7,000 strong team of Mater nurses, including our 40 research nurses who facilitate clinical trials that contribute to creating better healthcare for everyone. This year’s International Nurses Day theme is “our nurses, our future: the economic power of care” highlighting the importance of research in improving future treatments options. 

Karyn says she always wanted to work in healthcare, but she originally had her sights set on neonatology.  

“After becoming a registered nurse, I was originally working in the community with clients with a range of different conditions. I decided to branch out and apply for a position at Mater Mothers’ Hospital and the Nurse Unit Manager said I would be perfect for the Oncology/Haematology and Palliative Care ward.” 

“I commenced work at Mater Hospital Brisbane and realised I wanted to specialise in palliative care to help patients and families during the most challenging time of their lives,” Karyn said. 

In her role as the Palliative and Supportive Care Clinical Trials Coordinator, Karyn oversees various aspects of trials within the adult palliative care setting, from inception, research grants, start-up, participant recruitment, data management, through to close-out and publication.  

“My role has a great blend of clinical management of complex care patients, office-based work and laboratory tasks. Every day is different.” 

“I also recently achieved a very special professional milestone, with the publication of my ninth paper in medical journals as a nursing researcher.”  

In 2023, the National Clinical Trials Governance Framework was implemented across Australia. The framework embeds clinical trials into routine health service provision and strengthens the clinical and corporate governance arrangements for governments, hospital administrators, health services, private companies, trial sponsors and trial investigators. Hospitals will be assessed against the framework as part of their overall accreditation. 

Karyn emphasises the importance of integrating clinical trial participation into routine hospital care to improve patient outcomes. 

“Not only do patients who participate in clinical trials have better outcomes, it’s also an important part of hospital accreditation standards,” Karyn said. 

“Palliative care research holds particular significance as it ensures patients at the end of life receive treatment based on robust scientific evidence, despite the challenges researchers face in this specialty.” 

“The patients I care for can be very unwell. It is important to ensure we reduce the research burden of participation whilst maintaining a high-quality level of research outcomes that will benefit patients in the future.” 

Karyn says that one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a nurse is receiving feedback from patients whom she has cared for. 

“One of my most rewarding memories from my nursing career is when a patient came back to the cancer ward 12-months after losing her pregnancy due to a haematological condition. She pulled me aside to say how much my care had helped her get through the worst day of her life.” 

“Knowing that I can help people feel cared for and supported during their darkest moments is a really special feeling.” 

"You never know where you will find your niche if you don’t experience as many different specialties and roles as you can.” 

To learn more about what Karyn does in her role as a Clinical Trial Coordinator watch this video.  

To learn more about Mater Research’s Palliative and Supportive Care Research click here