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Case study: AHP campaign: “Research allows you an opportunity to try and improve what you are currently providing for patients and staff.”

Catherine Mandri

In the latest of our series highlighting AHP who work in research, Catherine Mandri, a Specialist Neurophysiotherapist and Clinical Lead for Stroke at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) and CRN KSS Co-lead for Stroke Research, talks to us about her research career.

How did you first get involved in research?

I have always been interested in research since my undergraduate university degree, but I really started to be interested when I completed the role of blinded assessor in the Avert trial. This opened my eyes to the potential research could have in therapies and shaping our services.

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

Two key parts have been pivotal in my research career. Firstly, was being a PI on the Avert-dose trial. It enabled me to gain a greater understanding of the complexities of research protocols but also an awareness of how my whole team could get involved at different levels. We managed to integrate research into our everyday practice and it enabled us to build relationships with the wider Multidisciplinary Team (MDT). Secondly was completing my MSc in Advanced and Specialist Healthcare. This provided me with a far deeper understanding of the importance of research.

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

Patience! - Research does not progress at a quick pace but when completed effectively can have a huge impact on services and patient care.

Perseverance - I spent a long time trying to find the right study for my service and had multiple discussions with different research trial teams. However, these discussions were beneficial to widen my knowledge and understanding of research.

Leadership - you cannot implement research unless you have a core team of people to support and guide you. I have been lucky enough to be supported by a great stroke and physiotherapy team at MTW who have allowed me to develop this service and continue to support me in progressing our research capabilities even further.

Why do you believe research is important?

I believe that all research is important at different levels, from big international trials to local level questionnaires. It allows you an opportunity to try and improve what you are currently providing for the patients and the staff. Research can sometimes be labelled as 'boring' or 'unrealistic' but I feel the new wave of research and trials coming through are trying to find practical solutions to some big problems within the NHS and that is exciting.

What are your plans and ambitions for the future?

I would love to see more Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) involved in and leading research projects within the region. AHPs have a wealth of holistic knowledge and skills that could provide great benefits for patients. I specialise in stroke care and I can see how this setting is suited to the collaborative MDT research being pioneered by AHPs, providing innovative and inspiring research to overcome some of the challenges the NHS faces. It is sometimes difficult to find these opportunities when day-to-day work is heavily focused at a clinical level, but I believe that research must be embedded into standard everyday practice as its benefits significantly outweigh that initial investment.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I feel it is extremely important to get a wider variety of patients and professions involved in research at all levels. The greater variety of professions we can involve in research at a more senior level the greater the depth of solutions will be developed, which ultimately will benefit our patients.