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Case study: “The benefits of doing research are massive” – Nurse pursues a career in research through NIHR Fellowships

Shaping the Future - Ping Lian, Tissue Viability Nurse Specialist at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Yaping (Ping) Lian is a Tissue Viability Nurse Specialist at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) who pursued a path in research after identifying the need for compression therapy for inpatients with venous leg ulcers in hospitals.

Ping, who is currently undertaking the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Doctoral and Clinical Practitioner Academic Fellowship, became a Tissue Viability Nurse in 2010. She learned about the venous leg ulcer management plan from a leg ulcer module as part of her bachelor’s degree pathway.

It was during this time that Ping noticed that compression therapy, the main treatment for venous leg ulcers, was widely used in the community settings, but not in secondary care. She said:

“I’m fascinated by this disease because venous diseases are silent, and they do not cause any pain in the beginning of the disease process. However, the impact of this disease is massive when a break of the skin in the lower limbs develops.

“Venous leg ulcers can be very painful and distressing due to the malodour from ulcers and constant leaking legs. This can seriously reduce patients’ quality of life and impact their physical mobilities.

“When I found out compression therapy was only offered in the community but not in hospitals, it made me feel I want to do more for those patients, and I feel like I have a responsibility to do something about it.”

In 2019, Ping attended a research conference where she heard about clinical academic pathways and the positive impacts they had on healthcare. This inspired Ping to find out more about a career in research.

Ping started her first original research project receiving an NIHR/Health Education England Pre-masters Internship award. She audited the number of hospital inpatients with leg ulcers, finding that 75% of those patients with leg ulcers being assessed with the Doppler assessment were eligible for compression therapy.

She also designed an online nationwide survey for wound care specialists to answer about leg ulcer service provision in their hospitals.

The findings of this project prompted Ping to apply for the NIHR Pre-Doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship during which she completed a Masters in Clinical Research. Having completed this in 2022, she then started her NIHR Doctoral Fellowship in September 2023.

Ping emphasises the importance of conducting high quality research to improve healthcare. She said:

“We are in an era where evidence based practice is well known to health professionals and we need to keep looking for the evidence to back up what we do each day, and that involves clinicians to conduct research.

“Although doing research is not easy, the benefits of doing research are massive for both the clinicians who are looking to improve the service, but also for the patients and for future generations.”

The NIHR has provided Ping with valuable guidance and the tools needed to conduct research, and she is grateful for the opportunities they have offered her. She said:

“I would like to thank the NIHR who have given me the opportunities to pursue research, as they can also identify the healthcare gaps and the problems that we need to resolve.

“I know that our research can make a difference and the NIHR recognises that too. That is hugely important to clinicians as it gives us confidence to pursue our questions and boosts our morale.”

Find out more about how the NIHR can support ‘new to research’ staff and early career researchers.