This site is optimised for modern browsers. For the best experience, please use Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

South West Clinical Research Practitioner says registration could boost career opportunities

Sophie Whiteley, Registered Clinical Research Practitioner, and Cystic Fibrosis Trials Coordinator at the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Trust.

A Clinical Research Practitioner (CRP) based in the South West has spoken of the benefits of being part of the Academy for Healthcare Science’s (AHCS) Accredited Register.

The register was opened in April 2021 for experienced practitioners who can demonstrate that their work meets specific standards. It aims to offer assurance to research participants, colleagues and employers, shape a clearer career path and raise the profile of the CRP role.

Along with the CRP Directory launched in 2018 by the AHCS, it is part of a UK-wide strategy led by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to grow and develop CRP roles as a key part of the research delivery workforce. The NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula’s (CRN SWP) Training and Workforce Development team supports the scheme, working with partner organisations in the region to encourage practitioners to sign up.  

Sophie Whiteley is a Registered CRP, and Cystic Fibrosis Trials Coordinator at the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Trust. She worked clinically in research for several years, before signing up to the CRP Directory as a way of connecting with colleagues throughout the UK. When the CRP register opened, she decided to apply in consultation with her line manager, whose support she needed to complete the application process.

“I wanted to be part of a community,” Sophie said. “But I also wanted to assure people of my training. Being non-registered, it can be hard to bring people together sometimes. And in the past CRPs have been described as ‘untrained’, which of course isn’t true, we were just not registered to a body.”

Sophie believes that bringing together the diverse community of people working in similar roles gives the profession a greater voice, increases its profile and improves career prospects and staff retention. She continued: “There are lots of people essentially doing the same job at different hospitals, but with loads and loads of different job titles.

“If people are gathered under one registered body, that gives more of a voice to the community, and helps increase awareness of the role. So when you’re talking to other members of the MDT (multidisciplinary team), if you say that you're a Registered CRP, they'll know what you mean, what you can do and where you fit in.

“I think having the register provides more confidence that there’s going to be some sort of career progression for people. It's a lot easier to establish a pathway for CRPs than it is for 10 different job titles. It gathers everyone together, a bit of a case of strength in numbers.

“It feels like it's got a lot of momentum at the moment, which is really nice. I've had lots of colleagues over the years who’ve come in, worked for a couple of years in more junior roles, and then when it's time for them to take the next step they've moved on. It's such a shame because you lose all the experience, people who could be brilliant parts of the workforce.

“Being registered helps you to see how people are working in other places, and how successful they are in breaking down barriers and not hitting that glass ceiling that you would without professional registration.”

The opening of the register means CRPs are now identified as an occupational group by the UK Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which runs the Accredited Registers programme as part of its work overseeing the regulation and registration of healthcare professionals.

The opportunity to become registered potentially has real world consequences for people’s careers and the level they can work at, according to Sophie.

She continued: “At the moment in the South West, if you're not registered to a profession you are very limited with the banding you can work at in research, although that isn't the case in other parts of the country. Being registered and searchable on the register should go some way to assuring people that someone is meeting a certain set of standards, their scope of practice is defined and they're accountable. So I think that removes a barrier to being able to work in a more senior way, which in practice a lot of people are doing anyway, in all but job title.”

Helen Chenoweth, CRN SWP Senior Research Delivery Manager and Workforce Lead added: “The CRP programme plays a vital role not only in supporting our research delivery workforce, but also offers the opportunity for our unregistered colleagues to grow both personally and professionally.

“There is an ever-increasing demand for experienced and skilled research staff across the South West Peninsula and this initiative certainly supports our transforming research landscape. It has been a pleasure to start up our own CRP Community of Practice group within the region, sharing experiences and reaching out to other colleagues who may be interested in pursuing this pathway.”

The AHCS has recently approved the proposal to widen access to the register to experienced CRPs who do not have a degree or equivalent education. The Experienced Practitioner Gateway will enable CRPs to provide evidence about their career development and experience working at practitioner level, and include any education and learning they have completed.

To find out more about the CRP role, visit the NIHR website: