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Clinical Research Coordinator Profile: How a background in nursing charts a path for a career in research

Image: Jennifer “Hope” Dover started out her health care career as a nurse and has since focused on conducting research that helps advance patient care.
Jennifer “Hope” Dover started out her health care career as a nurse and has since focused on conducting research that helps advance patient care.

As the region’s leading academic health center, part of our mission to is advance medicine and public health through high-quality, patient-oriented research. To that end, clinical research coordinators and managers play a critical role in this process at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville. In this series, we highlight how their work extends from the lab to the bedside to advance health care and impact patients’ lives.

Jennifer "Hope" Dover’s health care journey was set in motion in 2007 in the department of medicine at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville. Dover served as a registered nurse for five years and developed an interest in research following several clinical trials conducted in the coronary care unit, or CCU. With a heart for patients and a heightened interest in research, she began exploring opportunities in the field.

“It was fascinating to me to see things like a brand-new device or medication that doesn’t even have a name yet being studied, developed and one day be accessible on grocery store shelves and in pharmacies,” Dover said.

Experience with trial participants in the CCU acted as a catalyst for her evolving career in health care. In 2013, Dover took on a new role as a clinical research coordinator at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville. For six years, she excelled, becoming the basic science team lead just six months after starting the job. However, in 2019 Dover decided to leave UF, but her passion for research was not easily diminished and she returned in April 2021 as a research manager in the division of cardiology.

Building trust through education 

The level of trust a patient has in a research team can impact their decision to enroll in a study. While many patients are willing to participate in the research process, the reality of the job is everyone isn’t ready to take that step.

“Research is not always received well. Some people have a negative view on it,” Dover said.

When situations like this arise, Dover sees it as an opportunity to connect with patients on a personal level. Her strategy focuses on the overall health of a patient first, not the objectives of the trial. Dover believes creating a caring environment can help eliminate reservations one may have toward research and develops a relationship. As the patient becomes comfortable, she then addresses the specifics of a trial. Despite the heavy workload, Dover says her reward is seeing how medical research can impact a life directly or improve medical practice in the future.

“I get to know some patients very well depending on how many studies they’ve enrolled in or how long I worked with them,” Dover said. “Now and then, you get to see them in the grocery store and it’s a great feeling knowing you played a part in their wellness journey.”

Dover hopes the rapport she builds with patients and their families acts as a recruiting tool for future studies and further eliminates the stigma associated with research.

Duties of a research coordinator 

As a research manager, her days are split between patient visits and administrative duties. She often assists coordinators with patient visits in the hospital or cardiology outpatient practice. Her administrative responsibilities include submitting clinical trials to be evaluated for patient safety and ethics by university and national institutional review boards. Dover is also responsible for uploading data for research trials. However, no day is the same.

“Some days you’re so busy with patient visits you don’t get a chance to sit at your desk and tend to your administrative duties,” Dover said. “Others may be slower and you can dedicate more time to submissions, data entry or answering emails.”

Career in research 

From nurse to research manager, Dover’s journey shows how different health care backgrounds can contribute to the advancement of research at UF Health. Her bedside manner, attention to detail and care for patients were traits she learned and developed as an RN, but are now tremendous assets in her current role.

"It's hard work, but if you have a passion for research, enjoy patient interaction, taking care of others and the administrative aspect, this may be a good fit for you," Dover said.

Dover’s dedication to research is evident in her career and she hopes to continue improving the lives of the community, one study and one patient at a time.

The UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville has attained national recognition for its role as a leader in transformative, cutting-edge research. Among physicians and scientists, the institution is known for fostering a rich, collaborative environment that fuels discovery and encourages creativity. Research is centered around changing lives and moving medicine forward. Visit med.jax.ufl.edu/research/ for more information. 

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Clinical Research Coordinator Profile: A background in nursing charts path for a career in research