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Case study: CRN East of England Internship inspires NHS Nurse to pursue research career

Sunitha John completed her research internship in early 2023 and is has now been accepted on to a Health Education England (HEE) Pre-Masters Internship.

Sunitha John, a Staff Nurse at James Paget University Hospitals (JPUH), graduated from the CRN East of England Research Internship in January 2023. Having taken this initial step in her research career, she has felt inspired to take another big leap in pursuing her own research interests.

Sunitha applied for the Internship having seen an advert for it in the Paediatric Ward at JPUH where she works. She spoke to a member of the CRN East of England team who gave her all the information she needed, and she decided to go for it.

“I didn't know what to expect from the Internship or what would happen when it finished, but when I contacted the initial person about it, they gave me all the information I needed, and I really felt very welcome.”

As Sunitha is a paediatric nurse, she was allocated a mentor for the three-month course from the department’s research team, which she found very helpful:

“All the research activities my mentor was involved in were children's research studies, so I was able to learn about those.

“The first month included getting to know the research team and their research activities, and learning what studies come under our paediatric research team. I met the research facilitators, research coordinators and grant advisors, and each of these senior colleagues gave me a complete idea of what their roles are in research.”

In the second month, Sunitha got more involved in the research activities with her mentor. This included learning about receiving informed consent, recruitment, how to randomise samples and how observations are carried out, as well as research data recording and file management.

She also welcomed the chance to take online training courses related to the Internship: “Not only was I able to learn ‘on the job’, when I read about it I got a clearer idea of everything. It was also really helpful to get to know how clinical research delivery happens in our Trust.”

At the end of the Internship, Sunitha had a meeting with JPUH’s Research Grants Advisor who introduced her to further career opportunities. This included the HEE Pre-Masters Internship for which she applied, and was successful.

“I’m really looking forward to starting the bridging programme in November to pursue my research interest in early recognition of symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis.”

However, Sunitha feels that without the Internship she would not have been able to take the first step in her research journey.

“Working in the hospital means we can see, first hand, how standard practice affects children and parents, and therefore we can perhaps see how it can be improved. It is important to build on our knowledge, and develop new evidence bases to improve care for patients.”

“As a staff nurse, I didn’t know how I could actually get involved in research rather than just delivering whatever the normal practice is, but this Internship really helped me to get to know how research happens and how can I be a part of it.”

The HEE Pre-Masters Internship prepares individuals to apply for a HEE/NIHR Pre-Doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship (PCAF), Masters in Research or other similar career development opportunity.

Find out more about how the NIHR can support ‘new to research’ staff and early career researchers.

Early recognition of symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis

Diabetic keto acidosis (DKA) is a serious condition that can happen in people with diabetes. It is where a lack of insulin causes harmful substances called ketones to build up in the blood. It can be life threatening and needs urgent treatment in hospital.

Sunitha explains: “As a registered nurse I would like to explore more on the topic diabetic keto acidosis in children and find ways to help the carers and the children in early recognition of signs and symptoms and to gain early management.”