Vicki Bailey remembers when her lifelong friend confided in her that she was pregnant, but had learned her husband was diagnosed with AIDS. Further tests revealed her friend and her baby did not have the virus. Yet, her friend’s husband lived only another 10 years before passing away. Bailey began nursing school in 1988 with her friend’s story in mind.
“I wanted to serve exclusively the field of HIV/AIDS,” she says.
Since 2000, Bailey has worked as a research nurse at the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) Network’s Vanderbilt Therapeutics Clinical Research Site in Nashville. She actually started her career at Vanderbilt’s Comprehensive Care Clinic (VCCC) in 1994, caring for people with end-stage HIV. In this setting, Bailey assisted with giving patients infusions, transfusions and coordinating home health and hospice care. When she made the switch to the research site, she said the pace of results was an adjustment.
“Changing from the VCCC to research was a big learning curve,” Bailey says. “This is very different from the immediate feedback you usually get from giving an individual a transfusion. But after a year I was sold hook, line and sinker. What we do in the ACTG is our future.”
The population of people living with HIV in Nashville is half African American and half Caucasian, but predominately male at about 75 percent, Bailey says. She sees patients when they come in regularly to the Vanderbilt site for study visits. In this capacity, Bailey logs how study volunteers are responding to the trial regimen.
Deborah Sutherland, RN, is the Coordinator of the Vanderbilt ACTG site. She calls Bailey an asset to the research being conducted there.
“Vicki has dedicated many years to the ACTG enrolling participants into numerous research trials,” says Sutherland. “Her participants respect and love her for her expertise, compassion and advocacy.”
David Haas, MD, is Principal Investigator of the Vanderbilt site. He admires Bailey’s work ethic and taste in music.
“I’ve known Vicki ever since the mid 1980’s, when she was a ward clerk at the Nashville VA Hospital and I was doing internal medicine residency rotations,” Haas says. “Vicki brings to our workplace an authenticity, an openness and a genuine sense of caring that makes our day-to-day work more enjoyable. She and I also share a love of music including Jack White, Indigo Girls and many others.”
In addition to treating patients during study visits, Bailey has also served as a field representative on an ACTG trial that explored giving the protease inhibitor class of anti-HIV drugs to people who had stopped responding to the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor class. Field representatives do not develop the studies, but they do give input to make the study run smoothly and help the protocol team with study implementation at the site level. For example, a field representative would read over the proposed summary of tasks to be completed during a participant’s study visit and give feedback as to whether or not this list is feasible.
“I also enjoy the women’s studies we do and I have asked to be the lead nurse on all the hepatitis C studies that come our way,” Bailey says.
In addition to the duties at her site, Bailey is serving for a second term on the ACTG’s Network-wide Outreach, Recruitment and Retention (OR&R) subcommittee. This group assists study teams with creating engaging flyers about ACTG trials. OR&R also recently implemented a study participant appreciation photo campaign to mark the Dec. 2 anniversary of the first study volunteer enrolling in an ACTG protocol back in 1986. Bailey volunteered to help publicize this campaign to sites.
“This was our second year of the study Participant Appreciation Project,” Bailey says. “Budgets prevent many wonderful plans, but it is easy to make some thank you notes or purchase thank you cards at a local store to recognize research participants.”
The Vanderbilt site was refunded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in December 2013 for another seven years of research. Bailey is looking forward to continuing the fight and is hopeful a cure will be discovered.
“The evolution of HIV research – looking for a vaccine, treatment, prevention, eradication seems a no-brainer in hindsight,” she says. “I hope we focus on eradication and chase HIV out of the reservoirs.”