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Case study: “Take any opportunity offered to you!” - Clinical Research Practitioner on how she developed her research career

Shaping the Future - Fiona Richardson, Clinical Research Practitioner (CRP) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust

Fiona Richardson, Clinical Research Practitioner (CRP) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, discovered her love for research while studying at university.

Fiona, who is also the CRP Engagement Lead for the East of England, graduated from university with an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s in nutrition and behaviour.

Between her studies, she also worked as a GP receptionist, which gave Fiona experience in a patient-facing role.

After graduating, Fiona joined the NHS workforce as a community (home enteral feeds) dietetic assistant, which involved visiting patients in their homes to support their treatment by monitoring their diet plans and feeding tubes.

This role gave Fiona independence and confidence, and she wanted to develop her career further and take on more responsibility.

This led her to successfully apply for the role of CRP. She said:

“My motivation to pursue a career in research was based on my university experience, as I really enjoyed doing my dissertation and other research projects, and I learnt all about ethics, research design, analysis, write up and distribution.”

“I also enjoyed meeting patients in my previous roles, so I merged my patient-facing experience with my interest in research and applied to a CRP role.”

CRPs are an essential part of delivering the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) study portfolio, and they work to deliver safe, ethical, and high-quality clinical research care. They make up around a quarter of the research workforce.

Fiona’s day-to-day as a CRP involves screening for participants, completing patient follow ups, data entry and answering queries.

She has also developed some new clinical skills, such as performing venepunctures and electrocardiograms (ECGs), and using a centrifuge.

Her engagement lead role centres around supporting CRPs, chairing meetings, and liaising with other leads across the region as well as nationally to promote CRPs.

During her career as a CRP so far, Fiona has managed the dermatology caseload of studies, coordinated a study in nutrition and was the Principal Investigator in a mental health study and an endoscopy study. She said:

“One of my favourite moments working in research so far was when I first realised the real world applications of the studies that we coordinate.

“The first participant I recruited to one of our dermatology trials had severe psoriasis, and their skin and wellbeing improved dramatically during the study.

“It was great to experience that improvement first-hand, rather than just reading about results in journals.”

Fiona’s future goals would be to design her own research study in nutrition or mental health, to help grow the visibility of CRPs in the NHS workforce, and to support the development of the CRP role.

“My advice for anyone wanting to get involved in research is to take any opportunity offered to you, to take part in any placements or spoke days with research teams, and if it’s applicable, contact the academic and take part in their research.”

Find out how you can shape the future of health and care research.