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Case study: “Honestly, research is the place that I need to be” – Senior Research Facilitator describes her surprising path from finance to NIHR research

“I find that part of the job really fulfilling, getting to work with participants - real people doing a thing that is really important.”

Sophie Earnshaw, a Senior Research Facilitator at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, has found a new calling since leaving her role in finance.

Sophie worked in finance for the NHS for nearly a decade, initially feeling that this would be her role “until I retired”. However, a discussion with a colleague alerted her to a new role as a Research Accountant within the Trust, and she began to wonder about a change of career path.

Sophie says: “I thought the role looked really exciting. It looked like something I'd never done before, so I contacted Bonnie Teague, who is head of research and she said she thought I sounded fantastic for the role.”

Although Sophie was pipped to the post in this instance, she had so impressed at her interview that the panel suggested she apply for another position as Senior Research Facilitator, and this time she was successful.

Describing her new job, Sophie says: “it's a very varied role. No two days are the same with a lot of curveballs regularly thrown!” Her tasks range from answering emails on current studies, facilitating the adding of new studies to her site’s portfolio, managing data and producing regular performance reports.

Sophie feels working in a research support role allows for a much greater appreciation of the people behind the figures, and she notes this as one of the highlights of her new role: “I find that part of the job really fulfilling, getting to work with participants - real people doing a thing that is really important.”

While keen to stress that she enjoyed her time in finance, Sophie says that she finds research to be a much more rewarding environment to be in. “I found that, honestly, research is the place that I need to be. I feel like I'm actually seeing the impact that I make on our services so much more which is so much more valuable for me.”

Sophie feels that there could be a great deal gained by actively promoting a wider range of roles within the health service to school leavers: “When you think of the NHS, you think of doctors, nurses, hospitals, you don't necessarily think of what’s happening in the background, making it all work.

“If we could give younger people to the idea that actually, there are plenty of roles out there that don't require a clinical background, we could see even more amazing people with new dynamic ways of thinking, and more exciting prospects that could go absolutely miles within the organisation.”

In terms of her own prospects, Sophie is firmly fixed on staying on her new career path: ““I found myself very much at the crossroads between finance and research and I've had to make a very hard but important decision about where I'm going to go with the rest of my career, and I think in the next decade or so, I would like to get much more involved in research.

For Sophie, research is the clear winner.