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Case study: “Every day is different and there is constant adventure in the workplace” — Agnes shares her research career story

Staff story: Agnes Collarte

Agnes Collarte, Tissue Viability Specialist Nurse Lead, works in research at the Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust (CLCH). Here we discuss the story of her career.


What path did you take to get into research?

"I was employed as a Tissue Viability Support Nurse in the community way back 2004. My manager at the time was really into research and she involved me in her project.

"At first I was only screening for patients, to see if they were eligible. Then subsequently she sent me for Good Clinical Practice training to learn the ethical values of research.

"Later, a company approached us to run a project and I was made the Principal Site Investigator, under her direct supervision.

"Since then I’ve been running research in CLCH. And I’m still loving it."

"I am able to make a difference in the patient's life by easing suffering and pain..."

What inspired you to work in research?

"I get to see first hand results of innovation, so it's amazing to see. I’m also able to reflect and evaluate the different results, or maybe unexpected results, and store that for my own knowledge.

"Research also means I’m able to improve the service to deliver better or advanced care. And I’m able to share that with other healthcare professionals, which is really amazing.

"And lastly, I am able to make a difference in the patient's life by easing suffering and pain, or even healing wounds."

"The most important thing is to have a mentor to guide you..."

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

"Good communication is really important, and your ability to network with others. Without that you wouldn't be able to progress. You need passion, interest and confidence to motivate others, otherwise the project will not be successful.

"And we need to have discipline in time, which I have learned so much in research. It is vital to have that time management and, of course, a sense of commitment and responsibility.

"The most important thing is to have a mentor to guide you throughout the research, especially if it is your first time. And a very supportive team."

What do you love most about your job?

"I love being independent and autonomous. It allows me to be innovative and crave for more information.

"I get a variety of work that is always changing and evolving. Every day is different and there is constant adventure in the workplace. That's why it's amazing and something to look forward to.

"And most of all I love to see my bosses, colleagues and other healthcare professionals that constantly believe in me."

What have been your career highlights so far?

"Well I was able to finish my MSc degree while working full time and being a mum. It wasn’t easy but I did it.

"I also won a CLCH staff award, which recognised my hard work and inspired other people.

"I am also a co-author of new research that will be published soon. We started this research in 2019, before COVID, and were one of the research centres that ran all throughout COVID.

"And lastly, I will soon be a Chief Investigator of a new project, if it will be accepted by the ethics committee."

"Research is so much fun..."

Why work in research?

"For me, to learn something new theoretically and practically. And to challenge myself and others in new ways of working. I get the opportunity to network and learn from other researchers.

"It is amazing to see and to make a difference in patients’ lives. Research is so much fun. It gives me a flavour or a spice to motivate me every day.

"The teething problems make you think more widely and be more open to anything. Because everything is not perfect, there are always problems that come around. But you are able to address those problems, which has made me a tougher and more well-rounded person."

What would you say to your younger self when you were considering future careers?

"I wish I could have started research as early as possible. I was put off when I was younger because I didn't have a good mentor to go through the process.

"But when I met a very good mentor, they went through everything with me and helped me to understand what I need to do.

"Also that it takes time to build a career and you should be open to the many possibilities. I did not expect that I would be in this career and now my work will be published all over the world. So that's really powerful and inspiring to other people who want to do research."