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Case study: How the API scheme helped a Physician Associate get more involved in clinical trials

Lauren Morgan, Physician Associate at North Bristol Trust, shares her experience of taking part in the NIHR API Scheme.

Lauren Morgan, Physician Associate at North Bristol Trust (NBT), found out about the NIHR Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme when she was working in a previous role at University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW). During her time at UHBW the opportunity arose to take part in the HEAL-COVID trial. A UK-wide clinical trial designed to assess whether several different treatments are better than the current “standard of care” used to treat Covid-19 patients.

“Prior to becoming an Associate PI, the only clinical research I had been involved in was the recruitment of patients to the RECOVERY trial. This trial aimed to identify treatments that may be beneficial for adults hospitalised with confirmed COVID-19, but, I didn’t know much about the format of clinical trials.

“I wanted to understand more about the structure and organisation of clinical trials, along with applying good clinical practice and broadening my continued professional development to include research.”

The NIHR Associate PI Scheme is an in-work training opportunity, providing practical experience for healthcare professionals starting their research career. The scheme aims to develop doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to become the PIs of the future, giving them the skills needed to take on responsibility for the conduct of a research study at a site.

“I have learnt about the wider organisation involved in clinical trials and how amendments come into place, along with how to get more colleagues involved in clinical trials and how this can be hugely beneficial in promoting recruitment of potential participants.

“Despite not working on a COVID-19 ward myself, I have been able to highlight admission patients who may be suitable for recruitment. As well as this I would attend meetings and answer juniors' questions, along with going to COVID-19 wards to assist with recruiting, consenting and randomising participants.”

As part of the Associate PI Scheme for the HEAL-COVID trial, the NIHR facilitated virtual networking meetings for other Associate PIs up and down the country. 

“The group meetings have been instrumental in sharing best practice and understanding what has been working well in other hospitals to improve the recruitment of participants and staff engagement.”

The scheme is open to any healthcare professional willing to make a significant contribution to the conduct and delivery of a study at a local level over a period of at least six months.

“I would strongly advise anyone thinking about joining the Associate PI scheme to do it! It is very little admin work and allows you to get much more involved in clinical trials. 

Since taking part in the Associate PI Scheme, Lauren continues to draw upon her experience at NBT.

“I plan to get more involved in the development of clinical trials in the future, in particular those surrounding lifestyle medicine to incorporate into an acute hospital setting.”

Participating healthcare professionals receive formal recognition of engagement in NIHR  CRN Portfolio research studies through the certification of Associate PI status, endorsed by the NIHR and Royal Colleges.

If you are interested in joining the Associate PI Scheme, you can: