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Case study: ACP Nurse shares their experience of NIHR API scheme

Nick Browning, Advanced Clinical Practitioner at North Bristol Trust, shares his experience of taking part in the NIHR API Scheme.

​​The NIHR Associate PI Scheme is an in-work training opportunity, providing practical experience for healthcare professionals starting their research career. The scheme aims to develop doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to become the PIs of the future, giving them the skills needed to take on responsibility for the conduct of a research study at a site.

People who would not normally have the opportunity to take part in clinical research in their day-to-day role have the chance to experience what it means to work on and deliver a NIHR portfolio trial under the mentorship of an enthusiastic local PI.

Nick Browning, Advanced Clinical Practitioner at North Bristol NHS Trust, had a keen interest in research from early on in his career, helping with data collection for studies in his department. When he found out that the ‘Surgical Wounds Healing By Secondary Intention - 2’ (SWHSI-2) trial was recruiting in Bristol, he felt he could effectively recruit participants as he already met with multiple wound patients on a daily basis.

Under the supervision of local PIs Robert Hinchcliffe and Ann Pullyblank, Nick joined the Associate PI Scheme. We spoke with Nick to find out more about his experience.

“What attracted me to becoming an Associate PI was the ability to liaise with various people throughout the Trust, and have a bigger input into the research that goes on in a multi-specialty centre. We also have a strong research team that work here who are incredibly supportive, and I was guided by the Clinical Research Network (CRN) during the setup process. It was something that I felt I could be involved in without becoming overwhelmed.”

During their time on the Associate PI Scheme, the Associate PI trainee must complete a learning pathway on NIHR Learn, which includes a checklist of mandated study activities to complete.

“The resources available and the Good Clinical Practice modules on NIHR Learn were helpful for me to refer back to because they were really well put together and easily accessible. The modules prepared me well and familiarised me with all of the necessary forms and policies.”

The local PI acts as a mentor to the Associate PI trainee, helping them to understand what it means to be a local PI on an NIHR portfolio study.

“The biggest thing I’ve learnt so far is to involve people early! If you think a patient may or may not be interested in participating, just ask them anyway and involve your research team early on. It may well be that they are not interested, but it is better to try and recruit ten people rather than none at all. Always keep your patients in the loop and understand the commitment they are making by participating. Always be transparent and open!

“I’ve found being more visible very beneficial to my own practice, and having something I can refer back to when I come to evidence myself across the four pillars of advanced practice from a nursing perspective. That’s something that can often be lacking in your portfolio for advanced practice. As well as this, because I’m a continuity for the ward, it now means I can be a reliable resource when other people are looking to recruit patients.”

The scheme is open to any healthcare professional willing to make a significant contribution to the conduct and delivery of a study at a local level over a period of at least six months.

“My advice to others would be to try and get yourself involved in other research projects that you don’t necessarily have to be so heavily involved in. It might be that you are part of the recruiting process or part of the data collection process on some more local projects. See if that is something you are keen to be involved in and then start to explore the options of becoming an Associate PI.

“In terms of my future aspirations, I would like to continue to seek out projects that are relevant to my field. I would like to be able to present a lot of this work that we’re doing to other sites and share best practice.”

Participating healthcare professionals receive formal recognition of engagement in NIHR  CRN Portfolio research studies through the certification of Associate PI status, endorsed by the NIHR and Royal Colleges.

If you are interested in joining the Associate PI Scheme, you can: