Changing research through nursing
The recent coronavirus pandemic has provided nurses with even more opportunities to get involved in research.
Finding my role
Getting into research wasn’t a linear path for me. I began my nursing career as a BUPA auxiliary nurse, home nursing to fit in around my young children. I did my diploma in nursing and then an independent degree in Clinical Practice. At the time there was no funding available for my degree so I had to fund it myself over four years, studying part time alongside nursing.
It was during my degree that I got my first taste of research – when I first started home nursing I hadn’t really questioned why or how we did things. But my degree gave me the foundation to begin to ask questions about how I, and the people around me, were working and why we were working that way.
I had an opportunity to side-step into cancer research, whereby I learnt so much about the positive impact research opportunities have on a patient's care. I was curious about the opportunities and the impact. I then went to work at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London in the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre which was fascinating.
Alongside this role, I also studied for a masters in clinical research – it allowed to me to look at everything about nursing and research in so much more detail. I realised what I was interested in and began to explore the many opportunities within research.
I also spent time in mental health research in Oxford, which really underpins all of the work I do now because I’ve realised the impact that mental health can have on how we treat patients, how they receive treatment and their overall health outcomes.
This has led to the 'near' completion of a professional doctorate aiming to better understand what it is like for nurses who care for research participants and the impact this has for patients.
Ultimately, we want research to improve people’s lives not just improve their treatment.
A balancing act
As a full-time Lead Research Nurse for Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust (HHFT), I get involved in all kinds of research now. I work across the three hospitals in Andover, Basingstoke and Winchester and whatever research is happening, I’m involved in - leading and assisting.
Research and nursing is a real balancing act. I love the practice of nursing – it’s what drew me into my career. The interactions with patients, how they feel and how they are affected by what we do and I think people assume that research has nothing to do with these things. But the wonderful thing about research, and the research that I do, is that it has absolutely everything to do with it!
Research can only be of value if we understand the impact it then has on the patients we are working with. It’s why we continuously put patients' experiences and perspectives at the forefront of everything that we do. We need to know the impact of what we’re doing, not just in a medical sense, but in an emotional and wellbeing sense too. Ultimately, we want research to improve people’s lives not just improve their treatment.
It was during my degree that I got my first taste of research – when I first started home nursing I hadn’t really questioned why or how we did things.
Growing nurse-led research
Roles like mine, and especially programmes like the 70@70 programme, are so important to grow nursing and evidence-based care. Having protected time to undertake research, to talk to people, to let others know what research we’re doing and how to get involved is helping to change the culture around nurse-led research. It shows its importance and how serious we are about contributing to change.
Being part of the 70@70 programme has helped me to connect to nurses all over the country and feel like part of a much bigger team. There wasn’t a clear path to research in front of me when I went into nursing, but the opportunities I’ve taken in research have opened so many doors for me.
The recent coronavirus pandemic has provided nurses with even more opportunities to get involved in research. With so many trials happening, and needing to happen, nurses have come forward to offer their support for trials that they might not have done before.
With so many transferrable skills, I think it’s shown nurses just how valuable they can be in clinical practice and in research. We are now able to demonstrate our impact in a way that we weren’t doing before Covid-19.
I’d like to think it’s had a unifying effect on nurses and accelerated many of them into research which is so important. At the moment, roles like mine are funded but what happens when the 70@70 programme funding ends? What will our roles look like then? In order for nurses to continue to research alongside their clinical practice, we need it to become the norm and the pandemic has certainly helped pave the way for that to happen.
We are now able to demonstrate our impact in a way that we weren’t doing before Covid-19.