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Case study: "For research in primary care to work, a dedicated research workforce is key"

Your Path In Research: Natasha's story

For this year's Your Path in Research campaign, we’re sharing and celebrating some of the fascinating careers available in research.

We spoke with Natasha Davies, Research Nurse at Concord Medical Centre, to find out more about her journey in research.

“In 2015 I moved from community nursing into a research nurse role in cardiology at Great Western Hospital, Swindon. I’ve always had a relatively scientific brain, so the idea of being at the forefront of medicine was really appealing. I love being able to offer patients access to new treatments, as well as gaining the evidence behind those treatments.

“After 18 months in this role, I moved to Bristol and joined the Medical Research Unit at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, this time looking after dermatology studies.

“I then went on maternity leave, and whilst on leave, the research nurse position at Concord Medical Centre came up. It had a lot more managerial responsibilities and seemed to really fit with my career progression. When I first started, the practice was fairly naive to research and my main aim was to increase our portfolio, which I achieved in the first six months. I am now working on delivering a more effective model for primary care research, including working with practices that don’t have the resources to deliver research themselves. We can give their patients access to studies at our practice so they have the opportunity to take part in research.

“Since moving from secondary care research to primary care research, I’ve been able to get more involved in developing research questions. I’m really lucky to work closely with Dr Alastair Hay at the practice, who is also a Research Professor at the University of Bristol. We work together to discuss areas that need more research and think of ideas for new studies. One of us will come up with an idea and then we think about how we could deliver that in practice.

“The work I’ve done to raise awareness of the need for a research workforce in primary care has been one of my biggest accomplishments. Unfortunately, research can sometimes be overlooked or given to staff, such as the practice nurses, who are already busy with their day-to-day role. For research in primary care to work, a dedicated research workforce is key. I think the COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the necessity of research, but that kind of work is ongoing all the time; research has to become an integral part of healthcare delivery, not just a bit on the side.

“For anyone thinking about a role in research, my advice would be to gather as much information as you can. Go and spend time with the research team in your area, ask lots of questions and gather experience. The Clinical Research Network has been my go-to for support in terms of learning and development and there’s lots of information available on their website. It’s a very specialist role in its own right and it covers a broad range of clinical work, but you’ll know if it’s the right fit for you or not.”

Interested in finding out more about a career in research? Find out more about Your Path in Research.