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Paramedic urges others to work in south London research

We spoke to our new Clinical Research Practitioner, Ellie Tanner. Ellie is a paramedic, and she wants to use her unique skills and insight to help our Direct Delivery Team (DDT) give everyone in south London a chance to access vital health and care research. She is urging others within the paramedic world to consider a career in research within the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) South London.

Why did you decide to change your career from being a paramedic to joining the research world?

In my mind, it doesn't feel like I've changed careers; it feels like a variant branch of my role as a paramedic. As I work in research, I am still a paramedic. I bring the skills and knowledge that wouldn't have been accessible to me had I not trained to be a paramedic into my role as a clinical research practitioner. As an allied health professional, I feel empowered by my role as a paramedic working in research. I can display the value of a paramedic's insight within a more academically dominated healthcare division. My research interest began during my university studies. I studied Paramedic Science at the University of Brighton. Throughout my first year, I failed to see the value of academic insight in my clinical work. However, everything changed when I began my research appreciation module.

I was shocked at how engrossed I became in reading and analysing research. Suddenly, like magic, the academic basis for clinical work seemed exciting and inherently invaluable in my role as a paramedic. As a paramedic, the possibility of the real-life effects of research excites me the most about being in this field of work. My clinical experience means I have seen how clinical policies and practices affect real people's everyday lives. Knowing I am a part of the process that leads to positive changes for community members brings me so much joy. Being in an environment that inspires the creation of new ideas and the thought of formulating my research projects in the future also excites me greatly.

My previous research experience has mainly involved a methodologist's role in researching the topics of forensic medicine and mental health. In line with my future career goals, mental health research is the area where my most significant interests lie, particularly the community and pre-hospital management of ill mental health.

What transferable skills can you bring to the Direct Delivery Team from your previous role?

The modern paramedic qualifies with many skills that can be transferred to various environments. An example of the transferable skills I can bring to DDT is all I've learnt from my experience working in the community. I have an understanding of how to work within the homes of my patients and how to establish community-based contacts. I have also worked in many of the environments that the DDT reaches. My first job was as a carer, and I know that facilitating research in care homes is a large part of the team's focus within the community. Healthcare systems can function uniquely in different community environments, and I am grateful to know the structures and protocols underpinning healthcare within these sectors. These skills can help me support many facilities and individuals accessing research. My skills give me valuable insight into how the research will be delivered in non-NHS settings. I have worked exclusively in non-NHS settings based in the prehospital world. Being able to approach things from a clinician's perspective to research gives me a unique insight into how to communicate and to know what initiatives may be most suitable when reaching out to study sites and participants.

What do you hope to achieve as a Clinical Research Practitioner?

I am fortunate enough to have been born and raised in south London. The opportunity this role has extended to me to work across the area I call home was a big reason why I was so attracted to the position. Having lived in south London for many years, I strongly appreciate the area and its people. Working for CRN South London has given me the space to help my local community in a way that aligns with my professional values and aspirations. Within my role, I aim to empower more members of the community to be involved in research and for those individuals to be supported throughout the research they are involved in. I also hope to improve the accessibility of research to those within the community.

How important is the work of the Direct Delivery Team and NIHR CRN?

The work of DDT is vital. We target groups that are often isolated from research and empower those groups to access a remit of healthcare that was previously unattainable. The introduction of research into crucial community sites such as care homes, prisons and schools allows valuable data to be collected. Doing this will open up a vast network for researchers to find participants. The NIHR CRN is a pivotal part of health and social care research and ensures high-quality controlled research can be conducted where people are considered every step of the way.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I want to tell any paramedic or student paramedic who sees the research world as inaccessible to them or worries about travelling the path less trodden to get involved in research! You have the skill and knowledge, and you can do it!

Your voice is essential and needed within research; the paramedic profession is constantly advancing, and sometimes it is seen as unusual to branch out from the ambulance world. Paramedic involvement in research helps the development of the profession and shows everyone how diverse our skillset can be. We bring an autonomous and unique perspective of healthcare to the table.

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.