This past summer, I had the opportunity to engage in two different clinical research studies involving women and pregnancy, in the Penn Center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness (PCWBW) at the Perelman School of Medicine. The first research study focused on whether early life stress had any impact on the outcomes of women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). With far too many women receiving “unexplained infertility” diagnoses, this unique study aims to explore the relationship between lifelong stress, inflammation, and pregnancy in infertile women. The second study’s goal is to examine the pregnancy outcomes of women with early childhood stress. This latter study analyzed the birth outcomes and health outcomes of the mother and child, for example, complications that the mother had during pregnancy or how the neonate was delivered.
In both studies, I assisted with recruiting patients, both in person in waiting rooms, and over the phone. Before this summer, I had not participated in clinical research, nor had I approached patients inviting them to join studies. This specific responsibility helped me hone my interpersonal skills since I had to introduce myself and the study confidently and amiably while also remaining aware of the time constraint I had, especially in waiting rooms. Through the pregnancy outcome and early childhood stress study, I learned how to navigate REDCap, PennChart, and MedView after performing many infant record data extractions with these tools. The data extractions showed me the work that happens after the conversation with the patient. Both studies also introduced me to several types of ratings used in clinical research settings, and as a result of their prevalence in the studies, I became very familiar with the Adverse Childhood Events (ACE) and the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) assessments. The IVF outcomes study provided me with the opportunity to run test days independently as well as draw blood from an intravenous (IV) line. Not only has my knowledge of each study’s topic improved, I have also gained numerous skills in regards to assessing and solving obstacles that arise in these test days in an efficient manner.
As a nursing student, my newfound familiarity with PennChart will definitely prove helpful in my clinical rotations, as will my heightened assuredness when interacting with patients. The two studies have greatly broadened my views on conducting research, and it was a privilege to have these projects commence my participation in research. These past few months have taught me a lot, and I hope to learn even more as I continue with these studies during the school year.