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Your path in research: How working through the pandemic inspired my research career journey

When COVID-19 first took hold, Sarah Yousif was a nurse at Wythenshawe Hospital in Greater Manchester and had never been involved in research before. As the pandemic changed everything, Sarah decided that she wanted to make a difference by following a career in research. Here, as part of the NIHR's Your path in research campaign, Sarah explains how she is relishing her change of direction. 


I was working on a breast, gynaecology and early pregnancy unit for two-and-a-half years, which was primarily a surgical ward. When the pandemic started, all the planned/elective surgeries had to be cancelled and only emergency surgeries took place. So the ward was quite quiet at that time due to not having many admissions.

This meant that a lot of my team, including myself, were redeployed to the hospital’s COVID wards a few times a week to provide support. During that time, I saw first-hand how hard my colleagues were working while they were treating unwell and critically ill patients who were battling COVID. It was also really difficult for the patients who, in addition to being very unwell, were not allowed any visitors due to the strict infection prevention and control measures in place.

So, on reflection, I think those experiences, and seeing first-hand the impact that coronavirus was having on patients and the NHS, made me want to take more of an active role in the fight against COVID. It was at that point I decided that I wanted to make the move into research. 

By becoming a research nurse, I knew a big part of my role during the pandemic would be working on urgent public health studies to help overcome COVID. Essentially, I wanted to be able to help find new treatments to improve patient care and outcomes, instead of just being able to deliver them in a ward setting.

I started with CRN Greater Manchester as a research nurse in March 2021. Even though I’ve only been a research nurse for a short amount of time, I have had such an amazing and rewarding experience and have already learnt so many more skills. I’ve been helping with the delivery of ground-breaking COVID research such as antibody and vaccine studies.

I have been able to travel around Greater Manchester and work in a variety of different healthcare settings, such as hospitals, GP practices, care homes, and even a rugby club which had been transformed into a COVID vaccine study site. Before coming into research I was quite naïve and just assumed that research only took place in a hospital setting but I have soon learned this is far from the case. In fact, our CRN Greater Manchester strategy is very much focused on taking research into community settings.

It has also been exciting to be able to collaborate with different research teams across the region, which makes every day completely different from the last. So far I’ve only been exposed to a fraction of what my research team does, as all of our efforts so far have been focused on urgent public health studies, so I’m really excited moving forward to be able to work on research studies focusing on other disease groups and conditions in order to improve patient health and outcomes.

I managed to move into a career in research while not having much exposure to it in my previous ward role, but in fact I have learned that this needn’t be a barrier at all. If you would like some more information, please speak to someone from your trust’s Research and Innovation/Development department, or look at the resources available on NIHR’s Your path in research pages. You can get a better understanding of how research is conducted and how you can get involved. Research covers a range of specialities in a variety of clinical and non-clinical settings, so I am sure there will be something out there for you. I encourage you to join research if you are looking for an exciting, versatile and dynamic way of working, all whilst helping to discover new treatments and improving patient care.