Trust staff complete programme to help them into research careers

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust staff from a range of clinical specialities have graduated from a programme run by the Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) designed to support them into research careers.

The Starting out in Research (SOIR) Course is aimed at allied health professionals (AHPs), nurses, midwives, pharmacists, research practitioners and healthcare scientists from across the AHSC partnership. The aim of the course is for participants to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence required for a research career, so that they can apply for clinical academic or research opportunities at pre-doctoral level.

The programme was delivered by clinical academics and healthcare staff from Imperial College London and other AHSC partners, including Imperial College Healthcare, at the College’s South Kensington campus from March-May 2022. Participants learned about topics such as involving patients and the public in research, identifying a research question, and how research can change clinical practice. They also learned about research designs and methods, getting funding for research and how to get work published in journals. 

Participants had the opportunity to work in groups with a research coach to discuss how they would bring the knowledge and skills they learned into their work environment. Research coaches included more experienced healthcare professionals and clinical academics from across the AHSC.

Professor Mary Wells, Deputy Director of Nursing (Research) at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Professor of Practice in Cancer Nursing at Imperial College London, who co-ordinated the programme, said:

“Research plays a vital role in changing clinical practice and improving healthcare for patients. We saw this clearly illustrated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nurses, midwives, allied health professionals, and other groups of staff who attend this course are ideally placed to do research for patient benefit and have unique perspectives and insights to bring to the research table. 

“A clear mission of Imperial College AHSC is to ensure that we extend research opportunities to a wider range of NHS staff. The Starting out in Research Course is a great example of this work and was designed to give our participants an introduction into core aspects of research and to inspire them to start their careers in this area.

“It was great to have our first in-person event and I am confident that we have identified and supported future research talent.”

Edward Walsh, a Senior Musculoskeletal Rotational Physiotherapist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, attended the course. He said:

“I participated in the SOIR programme to gain a better understanding of the principles behind research and to determine whether I would contribute directly or indirectly to the process.

“My interest in research started at University as I sought answers that addressed the uncertainty regarding various physiotherapy treatment methods

“Research works very differently from clinical practice; gaining an understanding of how funding, publication decisions and grants work was very helpful. It was also great to hear how various inspirational researchers had navigated the research landscape and the different twists and turns in their respective careers. 

“Some of the statistics information will help me better interpret results from clinically relevant papers and I will also be able to pass on some of what I've learned to members of the team.

“I feel much better equipped to do the essential background reading and home in on a potential future research question. The course has inspired a few ideas.”