'Where there are gaps in clinical knowledge, we must try to find the answers'
Michelle Anderson has some advice for those who are considering a career in research.
“Really think about where you want to get to,” she said. “And then work from where you are now to get to wherever you want to be.”
Michelle, a senior research midwife at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, is passionate about the difference research can make to women and their families.
Since being at the trust, Michelle has grown the research portfolio from no reproductive health studies at all to more than 500 research participants in her first year. “Just knowing that you are getting the chance to help improve the standard of care for women and families through research is a wonderful thing,” explained Michelle.
Michelle came into midwifery after a degree in psychology, which gave her a grounding in empirical research, followed by her first NHS job as a health advisor in a sexual health clinic.
She qualified to be a midwife at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and completed her preceptorship at Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, she then moved to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, part of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, where she took up her first research midwife role after working in the trust's birth centre and in Practice Development. At this time, she was also editor of Essentially MIDIRS, a journal for midwives.
As a midwife, Michelle has always been aware of research as everything they do is evidence-based. “I wanted to get more involved,” she said.
Michelle also has a substantial academic background. Her degree in Psychology from the University of Buckinghamshire has been followed up by one in Midwifery from Oxford Brookes University. She also has a PGCERT in Clinical Education from King's College London and is in the process of completing her Master's in Research. She plans to do a doctorate in the future.
Helping pregnant women get involved in research is made easier by the willingness of that group of patients to take part, Michelle said. “There are lots of opportunities for pregnant women to get involved in research and most are really keen to do so.”
COVID-19 has increased the profile of research worldwide, and Michelle is playing her part by running a study looking at the psychology of getting the virus while pregnant. The data for this study has been collected and we are about to submit the results for publication.
“COVID-19 has had a massive part to play in getting research recognised on a global platform – the speed at which we were able to understand this new virus was hugely significant.
“I like working on new things and I am never bored with research as there is always something different,” Michelle explained. “Some midwives can be a bit apprehensive about research, but I try to encourage everyone to get involved!
“Where there are gaps in clinical knowledge, we must try to find the answers. I am lucky to have the support of my colleagues at the Royal Free and within the NIHR, which is opening up more opportunities to midwives all the time.”
As well as her position at the Royal Free, Michelle is also Reproductive Health and Childbirth Champion research midwife for NIHR Clinical Research Network North Thames. If you are a midwife who wants to develop a research career, you can contact her at email@example.com or visit the Your Path in Research campaign page.