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Inspiring Sussex school students to pursue careers in healthcare and research

Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Hove reached out to its parents and the local community for volunteers to deliver sessions at a careers event. The aim was to give groups of students aged 14 to 15 years old an introduction to our area of work and an insight into what a career in clinical research is like.

We went along to the school and were greeted by very polite students who showed us to the room where we were going to deliver the session. We delivered two consecutive sessions and the students were engaged and asked excellent questions throughout.

We are both nurses, so we discussed our career pathways into nursing and research, both being very different. We were asked how long the training was and what experience was required. We told them that voluntary work or experience of working with patients would benefit any application to nursing, allied healthcare or medicine.

We wanted to showcase careers within the NHS, including nurses, doctors and allied health professionals, but we also wanted to inform the students that there are so many careers within the NHS that aren’t patient facing - and don't involve blood!

We also emphasised that people in all these roles can involve research, and emphasised the importance of research to the future of health and care. The students asked an interesting range of questions, including some about trauma and death, how to become a surgeon, and we were even asked if we were offended if people wore a nurses uniform on a night out!

The main focus of our talk was clinical research, as this is the area that we both currently work in. We gave an introduction to what clinical research is, followed by a discussion about informed consent and the recruitment of participants into clinical research studies.

We tried to engage the students by making our session interactive, including a game to demonstrate the consent process and randomisation. We led discussions about historical events where research was conducted badly and unethically, and emphasised how the world has learnt from these mistakes and we now have policies and procedures, and even laws, in place to prevent this from happening again and to ensure the safety of participants in clinical trials.

On our way out of the second session we heard two of the students say our session was the best they’d been to, due to the interaction. High praise indeed from two 15 year olds!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.