Maybe my delay into a research career was also coupled with anxiety about not being bright enough. At the age of 16 I left school with a handful of qualifications none of which at GCSE level were Grade C or above. I realised I had underachieved academically, but I did have good solid values, a strong working-class background and a drive to do something positive.
“I was always driven by achievement and making an impact, but I never dreamed that it would be academic achievement, especially on leaving school with poor grades.”
Looking back I have exceeded all my career expectations and at each stage of my progression, from nursing assistant to senior research fellow, from NVQ3 (the qualification that got me onto my nurse training) to PhD, I have only ever focussed on the successful completion of each task in hand.
Academic achievement has now become a driver for me, alongside continually developing my skills and working to improve services and treatment for people with mental health problems. Working and training in clinical settings has given me the opportunity to provide more effective evidence-based treatments to those I was working directly with, but through research and academia I feel I am able to share my expertise and influence practice more widely.
“If you’ve got the ambition to influence nursing practice, research is for you. You don’t have to be the best writer but have a willingness to learn (it’s a skill that can be developed). But you have got to be high energy, innovative and passionate about what you’re doing.”
Throughout my career, I’ve thrived on achievement and trying to make a positive impact. Challenges galvanise me. And the NIHR fellowship is one of the big challenges. It’s big and it’s prestigious and rightly so. For the right people – for the people who can make an impact on practice – it’s hugely important. The pathways that the NIHR offer are absolutely crucial to nurturing research talent. I worked hard for the NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship and now I’m pursing an advanced fellowship because there’s a lot more I want to do to help improve mental health service provision.