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Case study: Your Path in Research at UHCW

Your Path in Research

Three research active staff at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust share their stories of how they found their Path in Research:

Dr Gordon McGregor:

'After 10 years working as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist in Cardiac Rehabilitation, I embarked on a part-time PhD in 2008. I had no idea that, ten years on, I would be supervising other Clinical Academics on their PhD journeys and leading million-pound clinical trials. The role of a Clinical Academic Allied Health Professional is both challenging and rewarding. Your clinical work benefits from your research; your patients, your colleagues, and your clinical service as a whole, benefit from your research. 

'Doing a PhD whilst holding down a demanding clinical job is not a bed of roses, but stick it out, and your development as a practitioner and a researcher takes a giant leap. I was fortunate to have some clinical academic funding during the five-year PhD process. One thing led to another, and I was awarded funding for a two-year post-doc from the Clinical Research Network (CRN) to investigate exercise training during haemodialysis.

'The snowball carried on rolling and, with support from the UHCW Interdisciplinary Clinical Academic Research Programme with Coventry University, I continued to combine clinical and academic work, focusing on writing research grant applications. Finally, after 12 brutal rejection laden months, writing numerous grant applications with fantastic clinical, academic and R&D teams from UHCW Coventry and Warwickshire, I was successful with a £1.3 million NIHR grant to test exercise rehabilitation in pulmonary hypertension, a £190,000 British Heart Foundation grant for exercise rehabilitation in Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and a two-year clinical trials research scholarship from the CRN. 

'Not surprisingly, there is a lot of support and funding for non-medical clinical academics. The NHS clearly sees the value of upskilling its clinical workforce to drive quality and innovation in healthcare, to meet today’s and tomorrow’s clinical challenges. It’s a thoroughly stimulating and rewarding career that allows you to develop evidence-based expertise in your field. If you have ideas about doing things better or differently, a clinical academic career may well be for you.'

Helen Eftekhari is an Arrhythmia and Syncope Advanced Nurse Practitioner and has always had a passion for research. She is currently undertaking a British Heart Foundation (BHF) nursing PHD Fellowship.

'I have extensive experience in the advancing nursing practice and specialist nurse role within cardiology and over 20-years have worked in arrhythmia, cardiac rehabilitation and heart failure. 

For over ten years, I have worked as an arrhythmia and syncope nurse and during this time I have developed an enthusiasm for arrhythmia care and supporting patients. My area of interest is and POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and supporting people with this condition.

Following my MSc in advancing nursing practice, I completed an NIHR Master of Research (MRes) at Coventry University in 2019. The highlight of this was undertaking a pilot POTS focus group, capturing patient’s experience, and seeing how we can better support people with POTS. In 2020 I was awarded a BHF Nursing PhD Fellowship and my ongoing passion for supporting people with POTS has formed the basis for my PhD project. The PhD project aims to improve support and outcomes for people with POTS by developing and testing a self-management support intervention. 

As an arrhythmia advanced nurse practitioner one of the four pillars of practice is research. My research journey has inspired a number of projects in syncope and POTS which have contributed to the care and management of patients. I’m hoping to continue this research, to shape patient experience and care not just here at UHCW, but nationally as well. Nursing is the biggest workforce in the NHS, we all have invaluable experience and ideas, and I would encourage anyone to consider including research in their career pathway.'

Steven Wise, a Renal Nurse Specialist, also shares his research journey:

'I am a registered nurse who has worked in Renal since 2008 and held several senior, and highly specialised roles, across the region. I have also worked in the community as an Advanced Practitioner/Community Matron where my focus was on integrated care for the elderly and frail. This experience has influenced my research interests of Frailty in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) within my current role as Renal Nurse Specialist at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.

'My pathway into research began when I was a Nurse Specialist in Rare Kidney Disorders where Research was often limited. It was in this role that I began to appreciate the value of high-quality research and how it informs, and improves, care for patients. I started getting involved in recruiting for national registries and screening for eligibility in phase 3 drug trials. I then completed a MSc with a combination of advanced practice, research, and negotiated study modules. This gave me the confidence to find, and interpret, established research and apply it in practice. The completion of my MSc also gave me the skills to write-up topics of interest, and service developments, for publication and/or presentation at national conferences.

'I reached a point in my practice where I was becoming increasingly inquisitive and generating my own ideas/questions for research. I wanted to remain in a clinical role but also wanted to gain further research experience to ultimately develop into an independent researcher and clinical academic.

'I was then supported by the Centre for Care Excellence to apply for an NIHR Personal Development Award which gives me 1 day a week for two years to develop my research portfolio and follow an individualised personal development plan. This protected time has allowed me to register on the NIHR Associate Principal Investigator (API) Programme which gives me the practical experience of working on, and delivering, an NIHR portfolio trial under the mentorship of an experienced Principal Investigator.

'I am currently the Associate Principal Investigator on the SoFaH study (screening for Fabry Disease in Haemodialysis) and working on the Prepare for Kidney Care Study which are both multicentre national trials. I hope to use this experience to apply for a PhD with a focus on Advanced Kidney Disease and frailty within the next 18 months.'