In Conversation With... ED research nurse Sam King


This week we spoke to Sam King, our Emergency Department (ED) research nurse, to find out more about a recent pilot he was involved in, using artificial intelligence (AI) in our ED.

Age: 30

Lives: In Leigh-on-sea with wife Laura, a children’s asthma clinical nurse specialist at our Trust, and their 23-month-old son Harry.

And: Sam completes our first husband and wife In Conversation With interview set, after we interviewed Laura earlier this year!

Tell us about your role at our Trust, and how long you’ve been with us

I joined our Trust in 2015 as a stroke research nurse, my first research role. I did that for a couple of years. It was really different than what I’d done before and it took a while to adjust to the change in pace.

I was involved in some really interesting studies, including looking at how a robot arm could help stroke patients. It was a good insight into research in the NHS. Then I became our Trust’s first ED research nurse after we got funding for the post.

I’d worked in ED before and was keen to get back to it. As it’s busy in the ED, not all trusts do research in them. It is quite different to doing research elsewhere as it’s much more unpredictable; we don’t know when a suitable patient for a study may come in.

My role involves speaking to patients about taking part in studies, and getting their consent if they agree, then doing and recording whatever is needed for that particular study. We’ve got a few going on at the moment, including a cardiac arrest study with the London Ambulance Service, to see whether heart attack patients should go straight to Barts for an angiogram, rather than their local ED. We’re also running a study using ultrasound when treating forearm fractures, so we can get patients’ casts done quicker; and we’re looking at how we treat buckle fractures in children, which is when the bone buckles but doesn’t fully break.

What’s the AI pilot we’ve been running?

I only recently got involved in this. I’d heard it was going on over a year ago so I was really excited to be involved as it sounded so interesting. It’s a web app which we’ve been piloting as part of our triage process. It uses algorithms to make predictions about patients, including their probability of being admitted and the seriousness of their condition. It’s there to be a tool to assist our nurses when triaging patients and works in a similar way to how Facebook uses algorithms to advertise accordingly, based on your demographics and what other people similar to you have liked.

We ran the pilot in majors lite over the last two weeks, however, it wasn’t affecting any decisions in the care of our patients. I was reviewing the decisions made by our nurses, alongside what the AI found, to see if the AI agreed with the nurses.

Some of the nurses were a bit suspicious at first – I think some thought we were testing their triage skills, but it was actually the opposite, we were testing the AI model and its predictions.

There are lots of possibilities with it, including using it for education. It’s not about replacing nurses; it’s there to support their decision making. A machine can’t look at patients and use instinct, so you could never replace nurses in the triage process. It’s really clever how it can interpret the free text nurses put into the system too, which could help it spot things like sepsis.

The NHS is a bit behind when it comes to technology, so anything that can help patients and staff is exciting.

Had you always wanted to be a nurse?

No, I wanted to be a physio at one point, then a forensic scientist (that was around the time CSI programmes started!) and I considered training to be a doctor.

In the end I decided on nursing. Both my parents are nurses, as are all their friends, so I’d always been surrounded by it. My parents met when they worked together and I was born when they lived in nursing accommodation at Orsett Hospital.

I did an advanced diploma in adult nursing at Southampton University, and worked in the acute medical unit at Southampton Hospital once I qualified. I really enjoyed the fast pace and learned a lot.

Then I moved to ED, which I liked as it had not long become a major trauma centre. I hadn’t really seen any major traumas before so my first, a boy who had fell out of a speedboat and been hit by the propeller, was quite shocking.

I also saw patients from several car and coach accidents, as well as lots of people who’d fell off horses.

Then Laura and I moved back to Essex and I worked in the ED at Basildon Hospital as a charge nurse. I found it quite different to Southampton as it was smaller and less busy so I struggled a bit.

Then I took some time to study, I did my dissertation and completed my nursing degree. Taking the time out reignited my interest in research, which had started at Southampton as they had such a large research programme. Which is why I applied when I saw the stroke research nurse role here.

What do you like best about your role?

I love the variety of studies, and the chance to explain the benefits of research to our patients. Often they can be wary about studies as they think they’ll be treated like a guinea pig. Nothing could be further from the truth, research isn’t testing things in a lab to see how people react, it’s about finding new ways of doing things which are better for our patients.

What do you like to get up to outside work?

We spend time with our son, who loves to be outdoors and we’re lucky that we live near some woods and the beach. We also like live music and seeing friends when we can.

We still love to ski too. Laura and I met when we were 16 and she got me into it - I went skiing with her family for the first time at 17. We even spent a season living in the French Alps skiing every day. However, we haven’t been since Harry was born!


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