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An interview with Professor Vanora Hundley, CRN Wessex Joint Specialty Lead

An interview with Professor Vanora Hundley, CRN Wessex Joint Specialty Lead

"I am passionate about supporting research from all professional groups, encouraging engagement from the very beginning of careers."

In the latest issue of VISION magazine, Vanora Hundley, Professor of Midwifery, Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health, Bournemouth University, and CRN Wessex Joint Specialty Lead for Reproductive Health and Childbirth, discusses the importance of research and why it's important for health and care professionals from all disciplines to get involved. 

"Health research has been changing lives for centuries and there are so many areas of research that have seen our healthcare systems, treatments and recommendations change dramatically. However, unlike the medical profession, support for research in professions such as midwifery, physiotherapy and orthoptics is still very much in its infancy.

"As Joint Specialty Lead for Reproductive Health and Childbirth, I am passionate about supporting research from all professional groups, encouraging engagement from the very beginning of careers.

"As you’ll discover in this issue of VISION, championing the importance of research in all areas of the NHS, not just in medicine, is vital to the survival and future of the NHS and its patients.

"With so many talented people within our healthcare system, it’s essential that we support and encourage researchers early in their careers across all disciplines and job roles. Not only is it important to be shining the spotlight on these researchers, but their stories encourage colleagues and signpost them to opportunities to get involved in research. This has the capacity to change how professions see themselves as part of the jigsaw that is healthcare and research in the UK.

"As a midwife, I fell into research. Although we studied research in my undergraduate degree, it wasn’t something that I’d considered as a career because it appeared so separate from practice. However, when I moved to Aberdeen a lack of jobs meant that I applied for a research-based role which kick-started a passion for research that I didn’t even know I had.

"As the lead researcher on a clinical trial, I faced an uphill challenge to be the lead author on the paper, as it was traditionally medical staff that took that role. However, I was successful and the paper published in the British Medical Journal (Midwife Managed Delivery Unit: a randomised controlled comparison with consultant led care), changed how we see midwives’ roles within research.

"Since then I’ve been championing the importance of research among midwives and working hard to establish flexible routes for them to become involved. I helped to create a clinical masters at the University of Aberdeen because I saw the value in enabling midwives to continue to practice.

"More recently I developed the Clinical Doctorate at Bournemouth University. This is an approach that I firmly believe has a real impact among patients and practicing healthcare professionals. You’ll read first-hand from our students and colleagues, the difference that balancing research with practice is making to their work and the impact that they are having.

"In Wessex, we are fortunate to have developed the Wessex Clinical Academic Doctoral Training Scheme, approved by the NIHR, which encourages professionals from all backgrounds to integrate research into their job roles.

"When I did my doctorate, it was something I did in the spare moments that I could find. There was no defined clinical academic route, so prioritising research was something that I had to drive for myself. The programmes that the NIHR are supporting, like the Wessex Clinical Academic Doctorate, are helping to drive forward research without it coming at the expense of clinical practice or exhausting our already overwhelmed practitioners.

"Gaining a balance between research and practice is vital if we are to continue to have an impact through our work. I hope that the stories you read in this issue of VISION inspire you to either take part in research if you’re not already doing so or encourage others to get involved where they can. Research is something that we all have a part to play in and I believe that it’s vital we embed it into our practice if we’re to drive real change and improve the care for mothers and babies."

The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR, NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care.