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Case study: Q&A: Bryony Marks - Research Midwife at CRN Wessex

An interview with research midwife Bryony Marks about her role in the Direct Delivery Team at CRN Wessex

The new Direct Delivery Team (DDT) at CRN Wessex will play a pivotal role in facilitating research in Dorset, Hampshire, South Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight. In this Q&A, we speak to Bryony Marks, a Research Midwife at CRN Wessex and part of the DDT, about her new role and how she's settling into the team. 

When did you join the CRN Wessex Direct Delivery team?

I joined the team in late September 2021.

How are you settling in?

Very well, the Southampton team is now complete and I am enjoying my new role.

Please tell us a little bit about your role within the team.

I am a Research Midwife in the Southampton DDT. I am based at the research hub at the Royal South Hants Hospital and also support at our research hubs in Portsmouth and Bournemouth when needed. I have been working predominantly on COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research, with some non-COVID related studies starting in the near future. Daily activities include recruiting and consenting participants, training, completing study visits and taking samples, data entry and resolving data queries. I am also a vaccinator on the unblinded team for some of the vaccine studies.

Is this your first role within research?

Yes, this is my first role in research. As part of my MSc in Midwifery, I carried out a research project in the form of a service evaluation, which developed my interest in research. Having been committed to providing care that was evidence based when practicing as a midwife, I am very aware of the importance of research and how it underpins, or should underpin all of the care we provide in the NHS.

I felt that being a part of this process from the beginning was something I wanted to be involved in, especially working on research studies that represent the diverse population in the UK, reaching those who are potentially more vulnerable and historically not well represented in health research. 

What have you found most rewarding, enjoyable or interesting about your role so far?

I have really enjoyed working with a more diverse patient population on various research studies, as previously I have predominantly worked with women and neonates, so it has been great to expand on this. I also enjoy the variety of the role, working with lots of lovely people at different hubs, on various studies.

Tell us about a time a participant or member of the research team has made you feel inspired and proud of working within the field.

I have felt proud working on the NIHR-supported PANORAMIC trial, helping to recruit participants to the study. Seeing how efficiently and quickly a study can be set up and exceed recruitment targets is really inspiring and demonstrates what can be achieved in a short time.

I was particularly inspired by a very dedicated Principal Investigator (PI) on the study, who was heavily involved in recruiting and screening participants for one of the PANORAMIC GP hubs, whilst also working clinically as a GP at a busy surgery.

What have you found challenging about your role so far?

There has been a fair amount of research training to complete, and lots of study-specific training and protocols to get my head around. Some aspects, such as Good Clinical Practice (GCP), I was already familiar with which has helped somewhat. It has also been an adjustment to approach things from a ‘research’ perspective rather than a clinical perspective, as often processes are different to what I am used to, and more standardised or precise.

How would you describe the role of the Direct Delivery Team?

The role of the DDT is to represent the NIHR in the community, delivering public health and social care research either directly or through supporting other teams to do so, in order to access those groups who are less well represented in research. Currently this has mainly involved supporting research hubs within Wessex to deliver COVID-19 public health studies.

How do you think the Direct Delivery Team will benefit or enhance health and social care research in the Wessex region?

By working flexibly as a multidisciplinary team within the community, I think we will be in a good position to access a range of community settings that are in need of better representation in research, and we will be able to adapt to their situations by going out to deliver research in their environments and therefore be more inclusive.

What are you most looking forward to career wise in the next six months?

I am looking forward to being involved in more varied research projects, such as the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) immunisation study, Harmonie, that I have recently started working on.  I also look forward to more community based research for the DDT, and the opportunity to take on the challenge of delivering these studies independently from the hubs.

How would you summarise your experience so far?

My experience so far within research, and being part of the NIHR CRN Wessex team, has been very positive. Everyone has been supportive and welcoming and it is great to be a part of the team. I would also say that my work-life balance is much improved since starting a research role and there is a strong emphasis on wellbeing, which is really encouraging.