Clinical Trials Day Countdown: Meet Kelly
As part of our countdown to Clinical Trials Day, we're interviewing some of our team members. Follow along here to meet our team and learn about their experiences within clinical research!
Today we're interviewing Kelly Wettstein, RN, Oncology Nurse Coordinator.
When did you begin working in clinical research and expand to where you are today?
I began working in clinical research when I joined Circuit Clinical one year ago, in May 2022. So, May is an extra special month for me, having joined right around Clinical Trials Day! Before working here, I worked as an RN at West Chester Medical Center in Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital for almost 15 years in pediatric hematology/oncology, where we specialized in bone marrow transplants, biotherapy, and chemotherapy. Our hospital did participate in research; the nurses there would get an in-service, infuse some of the medications, and follow a schedule of assessments for patients participating in the research studies, but that was the extent of my knowledge in the field of research.
What made you want to work in clinical research (and/or healthcare)?
I wanted to work in healthcare to help people and do something meaningful. What made me want to work in clinical research was I wanted something different than what I was doing. I tried to find more growth opportunities with a different part and perspective of the medical field. When I started looking for other options and saw that Circuit was hiring an oncology nurse coordinator, it was an excellent opportunity to expand on the knowledge that I already had and help contribute to new medical advancements in progress or being discovered.
What is an example of a story/article that inspires you about doing clinical research?
What inspires me most are the children I cared for over the years. I spent countless hours with them and their families. Those stories resonate with me the most; the ones that had research medications that helped them go into remission or receive more time and memories with their families that they might not otherwise have had. That is something extraordinary to be able to give someone.
The children inspired me because of their resilience. They were some of the strongest people I have ever met. They inspire me because of that unbreakable day-after-day facing the next step in their treatment focus. No matter how difficult a day could be for any one of them, by the end of the day, they would always give me hugs before I went home for the night, be excited if I was their nurse again tomorrow, or want me to sit down and play a game with them.
Working with children in hematology and oncology has many highs and lows. Some of the highs would be when we would send someone home after a bone marrow transplant; sometimes this was after they had been in the hospital for six months or more. We would do red carpet discharges for them, where we played music and had bubbles for them to walk or dance through while everyone clapped and cheered. Those were always the happiest because you knew all that hard work everyone put in, including the patient. And it worked! I wish we didn’t have any lows, but losing one of the patients we cared for was very hard. After I had my children, those lows became even more complicated, and that was why I looked for other opportunities within the healthcare field and came across research and Circuit Clinical!
Inspiring stories of children that have overcome the unimaginable happen because of clinical trials. Clinical trials advance all medicine, and with children, it is amazing to see some of the advancements that have developed in my sixteen years working in healthcare. Because the standard of care doesn't always work for every patient, I’ve paid attention to the advancements in cancer treatments for children. For example, the first child to receive the revolutionary CAR T therapy that harnesses the power of one's immune system just turned 18. She is now an adult! To learn more about this remarkable therapy and the first patient to receive this therapy, read here: https://www.cancerresearch.org/stories/patients/emily-whitehead