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17.09.18

Is a clinical research role the change you’re looking for?

Is a clinical research role the change you’re looking for? A new campaign offers nurses the chance to get involved in research and keep on making a differenceSusan Hamerdirector of nursing at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), talks about how nurses will have the opportunity to shadow a research team in a local trust for a day and  book an appointment online to talk directly to a clinical research nurse.

So much has changed since I entered the nursing profession over 30 years ago. Today, nurses support patients, families and carers in a wide variety of locations and specialist areas of practice, not least clinical research. Nurses have advanced their clinical practice, frequently supported by new technology.

The job of nursing requires a high-level technical skill set coupled with a wisdom of experience in the craft which may take years to develop. Each individual nurse represents a significant investment which we need to take care of. So what happens at times of transition, when life, circumstances or ambition makes an individual look for something different?

Currently, NHS Digital figures that show one in 10 nurses are leaving the NHS in England each year, with more than 33,000 leaving last year. There are now more leavers than joiners and although this was not unexpected given the demographic profile of the nurse workforce, perhaps what was less well anticipated was how many of these nurses would be prepared to keep making a difference if the right opportunity was made available to them. These nurses are too important to lose. Their skills are vital, not least in the area of clinical research. 

The NHS is built on clinical research. For patients, it means new cures, treatments and packages of care. In short, research makes a difference. So for nurses keen to explore new opportunities, a research role offers much. Our new ‘Keep on Making a Difference'  campaign is all about encouraging the NHS’s most precious asset – its workforce – to join the world of research.

Right now, more than 11,000 research staff are funded by the NIHR Clinical Research Network, including more than 5,000 nurses (the majority of research nurses in England) who are supporting more than 5,000 vital health research studies across England.

Clinical research nursing is a new and rapidly expanding branch of nursing. Many nurses may not know about or have even considered clinical research nursing as an area they would wish to work in. This campaign is for them. We’re saying: come and take a look.

So how do we find them and how do we engage with them?

‘Keep on Making a Difference’ is our new learning campaign launched across London and Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Based on a range of focus groups with nurses who knew nothing about clinical research nursing, we have developed a range of materials to enable nurses who may be considering a change in their career to do just that.

A key part of the approach will be a customised email series to help nurses to learn what's required to take their existing skills and transfer them into a research role. In six emails, over two weeks, we will:

  • Introduce interested nurses to clinical research nurses who have changed to research careers;
  • Introduce nurses to what clinical research is;
  • Introduce clinical research as a new field of practice and underline that good clinical research care is about good clinical care;
  • Invite nurses to participate in free short courses that are required to work in research;
  • Give nurses the opportunity to shadow a research team in a local trust for a day;
  • Tell nurses how they can join a staff bank or find current research roles to apply for.

Nurses will also able to book an appointment online to talk directly to a clinical research nurse. All employers know the importance of improving the retention of staff. Making improvements at a local level to reduce the number of nurses leaving is a high priority for every NHS organisation.

The NIHR is a significant funder of staff to support clinical research across the NHS and it is important that we play an active role in supporting these efforts. Engaging with nurses on a personal level and encouraging them to think differently about the contribution they want to continue making to advance clinical care is a key and essential part of the complex retention jigsaw.

 

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