An Unsung Hero in Research: Rachel Chenard

An Unsung Hero in Research: Rachel Chenard

On any given day, Rachel Chenard is interviewing families of patients as young as 2 days old. She’s frequently consulting with a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals to ensure patient eligibility for clinical studies, and ultimately she is responsible for patient safety. Rachel is a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Emergency Department at Boston Children’s Hospital. She assists with one of the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network studies, also called PECARN, and her role involves a great deal of data.

“When working with patients’ families, I always keep in mind that this is one of the most difficult moments in their life, because their baby is in the hospital and sometimes research is the last thing on their mind,” Rachel said.

Rachel puts her background in public health, biostatistics, and psychology to good use when actively recruiting patients for enrollment in this important clinical study that helps make strides in research for children under the age of two years old.

“Some parents are really on board with research and are thrilled to help prevent another family’s child ending up in the hospital, while others need time to process things on their own,” she stated.

Rachel’s ability to interpret and extract data from source documents is vital to her job. Rachel said, “I’ve enjoyed exploring a career in research, and I’ve ultimately realized that I like the data collection and analysis a little more than the clinical side, but both pose challenges at times.”

Working in the emergency room poses its own challenges too! Conducting a research study in a fast paced environment such as the ER is incredibly different than in other locations, because things happen rapidly and data collection happens all at once. Rachel quickly learned that she’d have to learn the unique way things are conducted in the ER. For example, she learned that sometimes the nurses are the first to draw blood on the patients, but in order to gather data for the study, Rachel requires the doctor’s consent before even being able to ask the nurse for a blood sample. As a result, Rachel has to think ahead whenever she can.

“Timing is everything when it comes to research and data collection, and ultimately the patient comes first,” said Rachel.

Rachel joined the PECARN research team around the time when one study was concluding and another was in the beginning. She described the process of starting a research study “incredibly difficult” as it has to be presented to and voted on by the network and numerous doctors.

“So often we do these studies and it’s disappointing when the outcomes don’t give any specific results”, said Rachel. But she doesn’t want to leave future researchers discouraged. “The best thing we can do is to keep researching.”