Can we do this better? Building research capacity amongst Cambridge’s nurses, midwives and allied health professionals

The Primary Care Unit at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine have kindly shared Christi Deaton’s work to boost research opportunities for nurses, midwives and AHPs in Cambridge

Linking together to explore research opportunities

On a November afternoon, a varied group of 30 or so nurses, midwives and allied health professionals (NMAHPs) came together to discuss research ideas and interests, find out about research activities and opportunities at Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) and the University of Cambridge. They were there to find mentors and share their passion for research with like-minded individuals. Judging by the buzz of conversation, people were successful in linking up with people with similar interests or those who could provide advice and support about research training and activities. The majority of participants were from CUH and the University, others came from Papworth Hospital, Cambridge Peterborough Foundation Trust and a few from as far as Ipswich and London.

This Research Networking Event for NMAHPs was sponsored by the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and organised by the Cambridge Nursing Research Group led by Florence Nightingale Foundation Professor of Clinical Nursing Research, Christi Deaton.

The Cambridge NMAHP research strategy

Christi Deaton explained: “At CUH we are very committed to supporting multi-professional research, and to providing opportunities for staff to develop their research knowledge and skills.  We have recently launched our NMAHP research strategy and have an operational group leading on its implementation.  This includes support for evidence-based practice and high quality care through to mentoring those individuals who want to become clinical academics and independent investigators. We are very grateful to the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT) and the Cambridge BRC for providing internal research fellowships for members of staff who wish to apply for a NIHR, HEE/NIHR or charitable doctoral research fellowship.  This provides opportunity for ‘time out’ from clinical practice, as well as mentoring and resources to develop a competitive application”.

“We are trying to build up an environment here in Cambridge where we can encourage education in research for everyone in nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions”, said Dr Ian Wellwood, also at the Clinical Nursing Research Group.

Developing a research track record

Peter Hartley, Physiotherapy Team Lead in the Department of Medicine for the Elderly at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, has a long standing commitment to research. He recently received one of the ACT/BRC Clinical Research Fellowship awards, which is enabling him to carry out a programme of research to underpin his PhD application. He explained the significance of the award: “The ACT/BRC Fellowships are designed to enable you to work up a PhD application and are flexible: my award is for 6 months full-time which was attractive to me and also for my manager, who felt he could more easily manage my absence with a full-time replacement”. Peter explained that the doctoral fellowship panels will be looking for a track record of research outputs. “This is very tricky if you’re a clinician as you’re obviously paid to do clinical work. Another challenge is to fit all the work you need to do for a successful PhD application into your own time”. But the ACT award means “the amount of extra work I will be able to put in is huge. I should have a much better worked up application, I’ll have done some PPI meetings and I will be able to demonstrate a range of research activity”.

Peter is leading a body of work with Dr Roman Romero-Ortuno on functional change and functional trajectories of older people during hospitalisation. These studies are focusing on ways to prevent loss of physical function in hospitalised older people, and the improvement of patient outcomes. Some of the work was presented at the European Region of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress in Liverpool in November by DME team members Jenny Adamson, Kerry Alexander, Patricia Costello, Becki Dixon, Nathalie Gibbins and Jasmine Luckett. Two other physiotherapists have now done the NIHR Masters in Clinical Research and a third is doing it now.

Peter concludes: “For me, it’s about the balance of the clinical and the academic work. You see this a lot in the medical profession but it is still rare with nurses, midwives and AHPs. The networking and the leadership that Christi is providing is generating an incredibly supportive atmosphere. Across CUHP, there’s more and more interest in research amongst NMAHPs”.

Find out more

The Clinical Nursing Research Group (CNRG)

The Clinical Nursing Research Group (CNRG) is led by Florence Nightingale Foundation Professor of Clinical Nursing Research, Christi Deaton, joined by Dr. Ian Wellwood, Dr. Frances Early and Annette Aylward. The remit of the CNRG is to conduct research focusing on improving outcomes in people with long-term conditions, and to build research capacity and capability among nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUHFT) and the School of Clinical Medicine.

The ACT/BRC Fellowship scheme for NMAHPs at Cambridge

The Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT) and Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) are funding internal research fellowships for nurses, midwives and AHPs (NMAHPs). These are intended to buy out time from clinical duties, and provide support and funding for patient and public involvement activities and pilot work so that applicants can develop a competitive doctoral or post-doctoral fellowship application to NIHR, HEE/NIHR integrated clinical academic pathway or comparable charity or research council funding.

The first internal NMAHP research fellows were funded in February 2015. Our first awardees were Biljana Brezina, Andrea Edwards, Gillian Gatiss and Emily Johnson. Information about them and their proposed projects can be found here: Diana Day and Peter Hartley were funded in spring 2016.

CNRG is particularly interested in nurses and AHPs with an interest in research in our topic areas (see Research), especially if planning to submit a doctoral or post-doctoral fellowship application to NIHR, HEE/NIHR, or comparable charity or research council.

The next round for the BRC/ACT internal research fellowships will be held in Autumn 2017.  Please contact to find out more.

Integrated Clinical Academic Programme for non-medical healthcare professions

The Health Education England (HEE) and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Integrated Clinical Academic (ICA) Programme provides personal research training awards for healthcare professionals (excluding doctors and dentists) who wish to develop careers that combine clinical research and research leadership with continued clinical practice and clinical development.

Read more about the ICA programme

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