Blazing trails in clinical research

As she began nursing school, it never dawned on Tamara Kempken Mehring, MSN, RN, CNS-BC, that her future would be in clinical research.

“I fell into the world of clinical research nursing, as did most of my colleagues,” she said.

Decades later, Tamara is blazing trails as a leader in her field, confident she made the right choice. “There is a reason I ended up on this path — it’s been extremely rewarding,” she said.

For the past eight years, Tamara has been the clinical nurse specialist (CNS) on the Clinical Research Unit (CRU) at University Hospital. She leads a team through research protocol implementation while supporting the conduct of safe, ethical, compliant and high-quality clinical research at UW Health.

Tamara disseminates best practices as she fosters the specialty practice of clinical research nursing.

Each day brings new opportunities and appreciation

Tamara Kempken Mehring,

“Much of my role is operationalizing a clinical research protocol in the clinical setting,” Tamara said. “Education and training are a significant part of my day-to-day, supporting nurses and other research professionals to be able to ensure fidelity to the research protocol while providing remarkable care to our patients.”

One moment she might be working with CRU nurses caring for patients, the next she’s collaborating with the interdisciplinary research team during the protocol implementation process.

Jessica Branson, CNS manager, says Tamara’s expertise in bridging the gap between clinical work and research helps both worlds better understand one another.

“It allows us to successfully provide a multitude and variety of studies to our patients on and off the Clinical Research Unit,” Jessica said.

“Tamara’s dedication to her unit, practice and profession is evident in everything she does,” said Tammy Kiger, MSN, RN, nurse manager.

“She heightens the visibility of clinical research nursing at University Hospital and has earned the respect of national and international colleagues through her incredible contributions.”

Collaboration and outcomes

The variety of work and collaboration with clinicians, researchers and patients keeps Tamara engaged and inspired.

“If we don’t carry out research protocols accurately, and ensure protections for human subjects, new treatments will not make it to market — new discoveries may not be made,” she said.

This was evident during the early days of the pandemic, when there weren’t standard-of-care vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. “We only had research and clinical trials. Today we have approved vaccines and treatments,” she said.

Being on that clinical research path was something Tamara never would have predicted, but it’s the trail she’s grateful to walk every day.

Tamara was recognized by the International Association of Clinical Research Nurses as the 2022 Distinguished Clinical Research Nurse Award recipient. The award placed Tamara among other leaders in clinical research nursing and acknowledged the impact she makes on a global level — which is even more remarkable.

Check out more stories featuring the great work of our nurses in the 2022 Nursing Annual Report (pdf).