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The pathway to a research job - Alison's Story

By Alison Wareham, Clinical Research Intern

Where have I come from and who was I prior to the CRN Internship?

I have had a varied career including at the age of 18 joining the Army as an HGV driver with advanced driving skills. Other jobs include silver service waitressing, factory work, retail, warehouse work, and other related driving jobs (HGVs, forklift, counterbalance, and reach trucks). I have also worked with adults within a care home and day centre setting. From this, I entered adult nursing however a year and a half into the training and due to personal circumstances, I had to put my career on hold. Many years have since passed, I went back into education and over the last five years I have studied and gained a BSc (Hons) in Psychology Counselling and an MSc in Cyberpsychology. I have really enjoyed learning about how we interact with technology and how it is changing attitudes and behaviour within healthcare. 

During my studies, I have carried out qualitative and quantitative research which I thoroughly enjoyed, although it can be difficult to secure job roles within the field of applied cyberpsychology. Whilst searching for jobs I came across, applied, and was successful in an interview for the CRN Internship post, which has introduced me to the world of clinical research.

Current experience - what have I learnt?

As an intern, I have been based at Cannock Chase Hospital in the Rheumatology Clinical Trials team. During this time I have completed various research-based learning courses including Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training. Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, it has been difficult to shadow healthcare teams within clinical settings.  However, in the absence of face-to-face meetings with teams and patients, I have been able to concentrate on learning clinical research policies, procedures, legislation, and governance that are required before, during, and at the end of each research study. 

Part way through my internship I have gained experience with the project management (PM) team within the R&D department at New Cross Hospital.  Whilst in the PM team I was introduced to processes for approvals, C&C, substantial and non-substantial amendments, setting up studies, localising documents, and close-out study procedures. I really enjoyed this part of the research delivery process and wanted to explore more about the research governance and early setup of clinical trials. 

Challenges I have experienced

Covid led to many studies being put on hold, and this made experiencing how clinical trials are set up and delivered difficult. I have struggled with my learning at times. I have felt and found it challenging to work at home remotely, ask questions and pick up certain tasks as easily as I would have liked. CRN staff and the staff at each of my placements were lovely and welcomed me as part of their teams. 

The Cannock team mentored and taught me as much as they could, allowing me to slowly grow in confidence and return to a full-time working position and environment at a pace that suited me. I felt very lucky to have had my first placement there.

Moving forward - what am I planning to do next?

For my final placement, I have been working within the Faculty of Research and Clinical Education (FORCE), which is part of the Walsall Healthcare Trust. I will complete this placement until the end of my internship. On reflection I have enjoyed meeting new colleagues, learning about different specialties, and experiencing clinical research in a new environment, adding to my understanding and learning further.  

Beyond my next placement and how the CRN Internship has helped my professional career? 

This internship has slowly eased me back into full-time employment. I have experienced excellent mentoring from colleagues and managers which has empowered me to grow in confidence and realise my potential. Looking back I have gained so much; I am full of pride. 

Now, just after completing the internship, I have recently secured a permanent position as a Clinical Research Administrator within the R&D Department at Walsall Healthcare Trust. So thank you to all who have supported me throughout my time with the CRN WM.

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.