AE’s, SAE’s and who on earth is Susan?

A little over 9 years ago I became a research nurse. Something had always attracted me to research but I think it is fair to say that I didn’t really have much of an idea of what I was stepping into.

I had spent the previous (almost!) 5 years working in cardiac intensive care. My first child had been born, I was getting hardly any sleep (who else 🙋🏻‍♀️🙋🏽‍♂️) and a couple of months in after mat leave had ended I was really struggling to balance being there for my little boy when he needed me with the shift patterns and working in an environment where switching off for a minute or 2 just wasn’t an option. I was absolutely committed to my patients and was not going to let the quality of my care become compromised and so the logical step for me was to move into an area where the balance could be found more easily and direct my efforts there instead.

My husband spotted the advert; a chance to combine my many years of work in cardiac surgery with research. No weekends (!) and a routine of working in the daytime mixed with a chance to learn some new skills. I applied, and was offered the job. Exciting times 😊

The learning curve in those first few weeks was pretty steep but I loved what I was doing and the day to day responsibilities felt comfortable to me and I was happy. I loved the patient contact and the opportunity to learn and ‘make a difference’.

Then, a few weeks in, came my first exposure to safety reporting. Wait, what? AE? SAE? And is it possible someone called SUSAN was involved? I was getting a headache already. I had to check for adverse events for all my participants, some were ok and didn’t need reporting… some were not… and did they mention they had to be reported within 24hrs?!! Help!!

Luckily I was working in a place that was run by people who were passionate about what they were doing, knew what they were doing and the bar for excellence was set high. Someone sat me down (with a flow chart!- highly recommended) and went through systematically what it all meant and why it was all so important. I still use that flow-chart; it is in my head but it still functions pretty well! Ah… the relief…

So, what’s the point of all my rambling you may well ask? Basically, that is it. Ask. I could have saved myself a good week or so of just trying to figure it all out for myself if only I’d asked. Easier said than done I know when you are just starting out and wanting to impress. In a positive way.

Today I was served another reminder of the jargon that is just everywhere in research. It really is. We get used to it. But we were all there at the start wondering what it all meant… and I’m really really hoping I’m not the only one who thought a SUSAR (Suspected Unexpected Serious Adverse Reaction by the way…) was just a mis-spelling of a woman’s name 🙈… if you’ve not been around the wonderful world of research a long time, please don’t be afraid to ask us what we are talking about when we slip into using all these abbreviations and acronyms. The National Institute for Health Research has now produced a jargon buster in recognition of how much there is- phew! For those of us that have been around a little bit longer, maybe we need to just pause and just ask ourselves if it’s likely that there is someone somewhere in our hearing that may not understand what a CTIMP or a RCT might be and provide that little bit of explanation that might just serve to make someone’s day that little bit less stressful..!


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