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Case study: AHP campaign: Lisa Newington on her research career

Read Lisa's story.

We are putting Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) working in research in the spotlight as part of a Pan-London National Institute for Health and Care Research Clinical Research Network (CRN) campaign, which includes CRN North Thames, CRN South London, CRN North West London and CRN Kent, Surrey and Sussex. This month, we spoke to Lisa Newington, an Advanced Clinical Practice Hand Therapist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

How did you first get involved in research?

I have always been interested in health research. It felt like a natural progression from an earlier degree in Biology. My first role after graduating as a physiotherapist involved working as a physiotherapy research assistant, and I have managed to combine research and clinical practice throughout my physiotherapy career. This has often involved applying for short-term research posts and external funding. Despite the difficulty in securing combined clinical and research roles, this continues to be a rewarding career path. I enjoy contributing to evidence-based practice changes within my clinical area and supporting other clinicians to become research-aware and active.

What has been the highlight of your research career so far?

I have been fortunate to win competitive research funding at pre-doctoral, doctoral and postdoctoral levels. This funding has given me protected time alongside clinical practice to learn about different research methods, design and deliver clinically relevant research, see how research changes practice, and provide research training for others. I have also had the opportunity to mentor and support other research-active nurses, midwives and AHPs. It’s hard to pick out a single highlight, but helping others to succeed with their research posters, conference presentations, publications, and funding applications is one of the most rewarding aspects.

What skills do you think are needed for a career in research?

Curiosity is key. Research and service improvement questions are driven by thinking about why we do what we do and how we might improve treatment and care for people by working alongside patients. Flexibility and perseverance are also necessary. Not all research applications get funded, research publications and conference abstracts get rejected, and often research projects don’t work out exactly as planned. These are all opportunities to reflect and adapt. Additionally, I think many people are put off research by statistical data analysis, but you don’t need to be a maths expert to be involved in research.

Why do you believe research is important?

We need research to ensure that our practice is informed by robust data rather than anecdotes or habits. Research-active clinicians should lead health research and fully involve patients in the research decision-making processes.

What are your plans and ambitions for the future?

Ideally, I would like to develop a clinical academic role that combines my advanced practice hand therapy work with dedicated time to undertake research, develop new research funding applications, supervise research students and other projects, and provide regular training programmes plus ad hoc research support.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

If you are interested in the impact of research involvement by clinicians from nursing, midwifery, allied health professions, healthcare science, pharmacy and psychology (i.e those who work alongside doctors and dentists), look at our framework and research impact capture tool. This tool was co-developed between patients, clinicians and healthcare managers.

Find out more