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Director of Nursing promotes NIHR leadership programme

We spoke to Dr Suzanne Bench, a Director of Nursing for Research at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, about the benefits of taking part in a senior leadership programme for nurses and midwives delivered by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

Applications are open for the 2024 cohort for the Senior Research Leader Programme: Nursing and Midwifery. The three-year programme aims to unlock the research potential of many more senior nurses and midwives.

What is your role, and what organisation do you work for?

I am a Director of Nursing for Research at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. I also have a one-day-a-week secondment to London South Bank University as a Professor of Critical Care Nursing, and I’m an alumni of the NIHR’s 70@70 Senior Nurse and Midwife Research Leader Programme, which is now known as the Senior Research Leader Programme: Nursing and Midwifery. I started the programme in April 2019 and finished in April 2022.

What were some of your key highlights on the programme?

I worked nationally to understand better the strategic priorities and ambitions for nurse-led research within the NIHR and NHS. I networked with other senior nurses and midwives across England who felt passionate about capacity building, sharing knowledge, ideas and expertise and working together on key projects. I also developed a local internship for nurses and midwives who wanted to learn more about research. I learned a lot even though the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the experience.

How do you apply what you learned from the programme in your day-to-day practice?

Since completing the programme, I have been promoted to Director of Nursing at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. I have developed a centre of research for nurses and midwives (called ACORN) to support, guide, encourage and facilitate research engagement for all nurses and midwives. I am part of the Chief Nursing Officer (England) Research Transformation Group and the NIHR 70@70 Alumni group, feeding into current and developing national workstreams. I helped set up a regional group for nurses, midwives and allied professional colleagues leading research in the NHS to share knowledge, ideas and resources to support capacity building across London.

Why would you encourage other nurses and midwives to take part in the programme?

The programme is a fantastic opportunity for nurses and midwives to develop senior leadership skills focused on research capacity and capability building. There are plenty of opportunities to lead and contribute to national and regional initiatives. There is generous funding covering salary costs and training and development opportunities.

You can find out more about the programme on the NIHR’s website.