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Case study: AHP campaign “research has improved my knowledge and skills as a clinician”

Erica Dodd

How did you first get involved in research?

I first became interested in research after undertaking a research module as part of an MSc Health Policy course. I wanted to learn more about how NHS policy is developed and how to influence policy as a frontline NHS worker. However, I did not want to completely step away from working in a patient-facing role so becoming involved in research was a positive way for me to use my skills and experience as a paramedic whilst working on studies as a way to improve health care and influence policy. I wanted a role in research where I would be based in the community and where I could use my knowledge and familiarity with community groups. That is why I applied for the role in the CRN Kent, Surrey and Sussex Research Delivery Team, which focuses on research in out-of-hospital settings.

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

I have enjoyed every study I have worked on, and the opportunities I have had to engage people in research in the out-of-hospital setting. One particular highlight was working on a study looking at the management of Crohn's Disease in Primary Care, where recruitment numbers had been very low. I had a participant who was very keen to be on the study but during our initial consultation, the patient was deemed ineligible on one aspect of the exclusion criteria. The patient explained more about his condition and how he manages it, and that the reason for being excluded was not due to the condition being studied. Having an understanding of the study and the reason that the study included this criteria for exclusion I could understand the reason the participant still thought they were eligible. I contacted the Chief Investigator to explain the situation and a decision was made that this participant could be included in the study. It was a highlight to have been able to work with the Chief Investigator and the participant to recruit them to this very important study which has the potential to change current practice.

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

To work in research I think it's important to be flexible and adaptable. You will come across different people from all walks of life, with different needs and conditions. To manage their needs and ultimately be their advocate when they take part in a study you need to understand that ‘not one size fits all’. Being compassionate and understanding is important, as well as being good at organising your time, having an eye for detail, and understanding the importance of following the correct procedures. Having a good memory also helps, especially when you have to learn the processes for multiple studies running at the same time!

Why do you believe research is important?

I believe research is important because it helps us to gain a deeper understanding of health conditions and how to best manage them. Technologies, medications, strategies, and ways of thinking are always developing and improving. We need research to know if these developments are of benefit to patients. This is also important as we increasingly look to caring for people in the community, rather than in hospital and it is vital that more studies are now focused on the out-of-hospital setting. Research is an important way to influence policy and improve practice.

What are your plans and ambitions for the future?

At present, I am enjoying the opportunities my role is giving me. I am passionate that research in the community becomes more widely known and more opportunities are available, and that research in places such as schools and care homes will become standard practice in the future. I plan to help develop and run engagement events in primary care practices, care homes, and other tertiary centres to make research more widely known. 

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I feel that working in research has improved my knowledge and skills as a clinician. It has significantly increased my understanding of many conditions that I knew little about, how they are currently managed, the reasons behind this, and also why new treatments are being tested. It has opened opportunities to work with professionals in many different disciplines which historically I would not have had. It is exciting to be part of the development of future care practices.

Find out more

More AHP stories and additional resources
Your Path in Research — NIHR resources to support research careers