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Case study: East of England nurse urges others to pursue a “rewarding” career in research

Philippa Bakker, a Research Nurse at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, says that her role has given her a “completely new challenge” and “an appreciation for just how important research is.”

Philippa, a former museum curator, qualified as a Registered Nurse in 2018. For two years she worked on an acute medical ward at Luton & Dunstable University Hospital with a view to pursue a career in A&E nursing.

At the height of the pandemic in 2020, Philippa saw an opening for a research role across the Luton and Bedford Hospital sites, focusing on delivering the ground-breaking SIREN study. This is a unique, large-scale partnership with NHS healthcare workers providing research into COVID-19 immunity and vaccine effectiveness.

Although Philippa was not actively looking to pursue a path in research at this point in her career, the opportunity caught her eye.

“I felt like I had sufficient knowledge to get me started. I thought research would have been something I'd have done ten or so years down the line in my nursing career, but it all happened a bit sooner.”

Philippa has worked on the SIREN study for over two years, splitting her time across both Luton & Dunstable and Bedford hospitals. Her duties involve visiting staff and carrying out PCR tests and blood tests, which are then analysed for antibodies.

“The COVID-19 research has been great because I get to go around and meet people in all different departments, which helps my work going forward. It’s good having those contacts because it makes things flow more easily.”

Alongside her work on the SIREN study, Philippa took on the position of Rheumatology Research Nurse at Luton & Dunstable Hospital in March 2022. For this role, Philippa works closely with the specialist nurses and doctors to identify and recruit suitable participants for studies.

“Some of the studies might be just observational, so I’ll be asking them questions about their condition and how they’re getting on. If they've been on a new medication, I will do blood tests and arrange for them to see our Principal Investigator for assessments.

“I have one study that is done entirely remotely where they answer questions each week through an app, so that’s been an interesting one. It’s a nice mix, as it’s half in the office and half out and about meeting patients, which is what I like.”

Philippa says that her career in research so far has been interesting, varied and above all, rewarding, as she has seen how research has directly improved participants’ quality of life.

“I think what's nice is that feeling that you are directly helping people, as you are seeing the long-term impact on people living with these conditions. You are providing people with access to these medications and providing the evidence to enable them to be licensed for use in the future. Those are the best bits about working in research because it gives you an appreciation for just how important it is.”

“I do think it's rewarding; it helps you appreciate that research really is behind everything that we're doing in the hospital. Ultimately, without research, we cannot improve the care that we're giving. You can really feel the difference that you're making long term and it just gives you a completely new challenge.”

If you would like to find out how the NIHR can help you add research to your career visit