This November David Currin, RN, ACRN, CCRC, will check two achievements off his bucket list. Currin will take a river boat cruise down the Danube in Europe. And he will also be honored as the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board’s 2016 Certified Nurse of the Year.
“I was so surprised and excited when I received the letter that I would be receiving this year’s award,” says Currin, who serves as the Certified Clinical Research Coordinator and the Clinical Quality Program Manager for UNC’s Global HIV Prevention and Treatment Clinical Trials Unit. “Honors and awards are not why I do this work. I am going to dedicate this award to the memory of the friends I lost in the 1980s and 1990s to HIV.”
Certified as a research coordinator and an HIV nurse clinician, Currin has spent the past 15 years seeing patients on study at UNC and at affiliated site like the Wake County Health Department. At any given time, he sees participants from five to six studies, including those funded by the government and those trials funded by pharmaceutical companies. He splits his time between these duties and overseeing the team who manage the data collected by the unit’s many studies.
“My heart is really in seeing research patients,” Currin says. “I got my start after nursing school at the state’s mental health hospital. When I came to UNC in 2001, the first studies I saw patients on were treatment naïve trials. These were people who were being diagnosed with HIV and had never initiated therapy. Because of my psychiatry background, I felt I could help them identify ways to accept their diagnosis and the lifelong commitment of taking daily medications.”
Currin has watched as the research field has shifted from studies aimed at identifying the best treatment for HIV to those focused on prevention and a cure. He has also witnessed the demographic of those infected with the virus shift from an older population to youth.
“When I first started at UNC, I was seeing patients on study who were my age,” Currin says. “But now those newly diagnosed are in their teens and twenties. We are seeing the next generation living with or at risk for HIV. But what is exciting is that we have these important studies about pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to prevent HIV now. HIV Prevention Trials Unit (HPTN) 073 was my first PrEP study. We also have a cure for another viral infection – hepatitis C virus. I was the study coordinator for that successful treatment trial at UNC. It gives me hope that maybe we will see a cure for HIV.”
“David has worked in HIV/AIDS nursing for the last 15 years, initially as a study nurse, followed by years of progressively increased responsibility,” Marcus says. “He always brings the highest level of professionalism and commitment to everything he does, providing superb care, spotless data and personalized support to each study volunteer. He fosters collaboration and continuous learning among his peers, serving as a trainer, mentor, friendly advisor and role model. I am privileged to work with him and was pleased to nominate him for this well-deserved honor.”
Farel works with Currin to connect patients from the Wake County Health Department and the UNC ID Clinic with research studies.
“He does an incredible job of ensuring that patients have all of the information they need to make a good decision,” Farel says. “What’s so important and special is that he makes sure that staff are comfortable communicating this information – this ensures that all of our patients have a chance to be a part of the progress we are making in the fight against HIV and in improving the lives of people living with HIV. He is a patient teacher to staff and colleagues and is always happy to answer a question or explain a study.”
Robert Dodge, PhD, RN, ANP, AACRN, is president of the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board that is presenting Currin with the award.
“David was selected for this commitment and compassion to the nursing field, particularly in the area of HIV,” says Dodge. “He has the ability and interest in teaching other health care professionals what it means to be compassionate, caring and supportive to patients with HIV.”
Currin jokes that he is also known in the research unit as “the hugging nurse.” He said it is a habit he started after noticing the power of touch when he was a nursing student treating his first patient with HIV. The patient had been attacked and stabbed in a phone booth because of his sexual orientation. Because he was living with HIV, he was put in a hospital room much further down the hall than the other patients. Currin noticed the man had a partial plate in his mouth and asked if the patient would like him to clean it.
“As a first semester nursing student, I was only allowed to take a patient’s vital signs, give baths, change their sheets and provide oral care,” Currin says. “When I noticed this patient had a partial plate in his mouth, I offered to take it out and clean it for him. He had been in the hospital several days by this point and had undergone two surgeries. I took it out and he sighed. I looked at the plate and it was so dirty. I realized no one had offered to clean it for him before me. He was my first patient and I will always remember how this small act really made a difference. That is why I offer a hug to my patients. Sometimes just listening and giving someone a hug can make all the difference.”