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Case study: Staff Research Champions Assemble!

Staff Research Champions

At Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust (SCHT), they are embedding research across the whole organisation by appointing a network of Staff Research Champions (RCs).

Launched in June 2021, the initiative was created by Johanne Tomlinson, Research Delivery Team Leader at the Trust (pictured R), with help from Clinical Research Practitioner Sharen Painter (pictured L). 

They have recruited 20 of these Staff Research Champions across the Trust’s six Geographical locations and aim to have at least one Champion in each service area.

Jo said: “We are really pleased with the enthusiasm for the scheme and it’s great to have so many colleagues on board already. It benefits the staff themselves, the services and the communities they serve.”

Champions are asked to act as role models in promoting research in their own service and the 
wider Trust to support the delivery of the best evidence-based care to patients and service users.

They work collaboratively with the Research and Innovation (R&I) Team to spread the word about research, helping to identify potential research participants, assessing the feasibility of potential new studies, and sharing ideas about how to engage and support service users and staff to become research active.

Dr Louise Warburton, who is Associate Medical Director and Lead for Research at SCHT,  as well as Joint Speciality Lead for Community Trust Research for the NIHR Clinical Research

Network West Midlands, commented: “It’s such a great idea - the Champions are clearly visible with their special lanyards and this voluntary role has attracted staff from a diverse range of professional backgrounds.”

Jo added: “The scheme is for all levels of staff and is proving a really good way of integrating all trust services including those based in remote geographical settings. Being involved in research makes staff think about the care they are giving and gives them the confidence to question - is this the best way of doing things?’’

“Since we launched, research activity at the Trust has increased and taking part in the SIREN Covid-19 study, which evaluated the immune response in healthcare workers, has also helped to build relationships. 

“The Champions will be presenting at the Trust Showcase event in November to discuss their role and encourage others to become Staff research champions within their service area, they will also provide support to anyone who wants to come forward to be Champions themselves.”

Ways in which the team has supported the Champions and integrated their role include:

- Creation of a structured role description 

- Introducton of an Induction session  which features an overview of the research Champion’s role, an introduction to the NIHR,the  Clinical Research Network and research that is taking place at the Trust

- A Certificate of Attendance that can be used as part of professional revalidation is given to champions attending the induction session

- A Staff Research Champion lanyard has been designed in distinctive colours of gold and NHS blue, making them visible to staff, patients and the public within their service areas

- Posters have also been created to display within their areas so research champions can be recognised as a research link, featuring photo and contact details

- Research and Innovation section on the staff intranet with a Champions section, including information on how to become a Staff Research Champion and access to training

- Staff Research Champion newsletter published monthly, highlighting research activity within a different service each issue, and sharing best practice

- Staff Research Champion attendance at/reporting to R&I forum meetings

- Bi-monthly Staff Research Champion meetings that give the opportunity to network with other services and develop a greater understanding of the workings of research within the trust

- R&I section in Trust Newsletter

Jo concludes: “We would be delighted to share our learning with colleagues from other Trusts thinking of setting up a similar scheme.”

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