Raisa Kavalakkat: The Cardiac Research Charity, Northwick Park Hospital

Sunetra Senior Monday 04th March 2019 11:18 EST

There is a poetic justice in hearing the secret to good cardiovascular care: “having heart, and showing love and patience is pivotal to yielding favourable results,” Raisa, Cardiac Research Charity’s much valued cardiac research nurse specialist, told us. Playing a lead role in handling the ground-breaking research that will improve the future of treatments in Cardiology, Raisa emphasised the importance of communication in securing quality data. “The Cardiac Research Charity, at Northwick Park, with whom I have been working for the past five years, participates in different novel studies which investigates new treatment strategies for management of cardiovascular diseases. These clinical research studies can be centred on new medications or more on the devices and technique such as stents.” These are devices which help restore blood to flow through the heart blood vessels, which have become narrowed. This charity has helped research many of the common cardiovascular medications and treatment strategies which are now available to public. It is mandatory to follow strong ethical guidelines.

In addition to this, "patient relationships and safety are paramount. You must really understand the individuals who are undergoing clinical trials to make them comfortable and ultimately maximise the accuracy: a trial may consist of 200-300 patients, but if you lose  a certain number of people over time in follow up, that study loses credibility. Recruiting eligible patients and conducting clinical follow up is a big part of my job, but the interpersonal warmth makes it successful.” Making sure people feel informed and held throughout the process, “makes them want to care more for themselves, responding to treatment through the bond, and even volunteering for further medical research.” Indeed, Raisa has helped her landmark charity gain recognition overseas by the prestigious NYU’s School of Medicine for providing  quality data on a very important study which looks at a new way to treat patients with coronary artery disease. “The best part of the job is seeing a verified theory go from conceptualisation to actualisation. We change the public’s lives with vital breakthroughs. It is incredible to be so intimately involved.” In trials involving drug treatments, in order to keep the trial impartial, half of the participants are administered placebos as per trial guidelines. However, “whether or not the  new treatment takes effect, there is always improvement in the patient’s overall condition through responsive habitual changes such as altering eating habits or being more receptive to quitting smoking.” As evidenced by a look at the body’s most core muscle then, the consciousness is just as significant to the ability to function daily.


However, Raisa’s warmer approach is not so much about lauding the mental over the physical as creating a holistic imagination of healthcare altogether. This includes considering the effects on lifestyle alongside physiological transformations: “I’ll always remember a lady whose chief loss in suffering heart disease was not being able to go out to the cinema anymore. It meant so much to her – after treatment, she could be social and truly alive again. Another woman thanked me profusely for saving her husband’s life through the regular follow up that research provided, and the imitable human dimension in our work was clear – mental wellbeing and physical issues are very often interlinked. One of our patients actually reversed long-standing diabetes through a lifestyle change via counselling in our clinics.”

The young nurse’s peaceable view extends to the NHS. When asked whether she believed extra funding should go to its mental health sector, she stated: “of course, but I’m not an expert in this area. I simply think attention should go to facilitating the sincerest, softest care for anyone who is vulnerable.” From GPs who might be delivering news that means one might need to take the briefest of time off work to surgeons prepping patients just before a life-changing operation, Raisa’s wisdom rings widely true. “I hope to continue my research within the cardiovascular field,” she finished, “and to advise on cost-effective strategies to manage various cardiovascular diseases according to their burden at that particular point in time. Again, it’s about heeding the content, or the way in which money is being distributed to manage the numbers in the long run!” And so, Raisa’s contribution to her crucial profession does not just invigorate medicine, but at once rests on a socially progressive pulse.

What do you feel your approachability brings?

Positive change to people’s lives through new ways of conducting the traditional methods. It’s a privilege to do this. We are making an attempt to help tackle  coronary heart disease effectively by enrolling eligible patients to research studies and enabling better patient care.

So, does another’s love help foster self-love?

Yes, absolutely.it makes such a difference just to have someone listen to you. That person feels hopeful again.

How did you come to be so involved in research?

 I was a nurse working in cardiovascular units, caring for patients at their bedsides. After completing my MSc, I also developed an interest in research.

I assume being a research nurse means providing a lot of practical support?

Yes, because sometimes patients will go through many changes in health and they must be able to discuss the details of their journeys with you.

What is your favourite part of the research?

Patient care because it’s lovely to meet new people!

What advice would you give others wanting to train as a nurse?

Listen to what your emotions are telling you. It’s a profession that requires warmth, empathy and enthusiasm from within. It is extremely rewarding as a professional job. But you need to be someone who likes to listen, and has tremendous patience. On the practical side, you need to be ready for piles of paperwork and good computer skills are valued too!

T: @RaisaRNresearch


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