In a clinical setting it is well known that protein intake is important in critically ill patients, but one question was left unanswered. How much protein is beneficial?
This summer I have had the great experience working as a part of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s (HUP) Clinical Nutrition Support Staff as a research assistant for the EFFORT Trial (The Effect of Higher Protein Dosing in Critically Ill Patients). In this international study, we are randomizing 5,000 patients into high protein and low protein dosage groups and comparing it to their mortality and 60 day health care outcomes. During my summer, I gained experience in working with nurses and fellow dietitians, and had direct patient contact in HUP’s Medical Intensive Care Unit
Before my sophomore year, I had very little interest in doing research. I always thought that it was for biology students who worked with mice. After conducting research at Pennsylvania Hospital and at CHOP’s Center for Autism research, I learned I have a love for research which led me to apply for my PURM position. After getting this position, I was extremely nervous because the only clinical experience I had dealt with pregnancy, labor and delivery, and newborns. Being thrown into a critical care environment was a steep learning curve.
As a rising junior in nursing school, my clinical experience is limited. And labor and delivery does not quite prepare you when you are going into patient’s rooms and being immersed in critical illness. Despite not having a nursing role this summer, I have learned so much about critical illness. As this is nutrition focused research, I was skeptical on how much this would benefit my nursing career, but I could not have been more wrong. From this experience I learned how to work in an interdisciplinary team, calculate mortality risk scores, gain direct patient experience. And believe it or not, I learned a lot about nutrition practices in critically ill settings- which plays a role in a nurse’s daily duties.
As this summer came to a close, I was offered the opportunity to continue working for the EFFORT study and without a doubt I said yes. I learned as much as research helps me improve as a nursing student, it helps the healthcare setting as a whole. With this research, we are helping to shape health care practice and I am proud to say that so far, my little piece of this large research study will help save lives in the future.