I began my journey as a mental health nurse in 2011, where early on as an undergraduate I was introduced to research. Right from the beginning it excited me. My university was very supportive of my research aspirations. I knew that I wanted my research to be clinically based, so our Research Development Officer introduced me to the HEE/NIHR clinical academic pathway. From then on, that was my aim.
To be successful I needed to show passion, potential and commitment. While still an undergraduate, I co-founded a research interest group for undergraduate nurses and midwives and published a couple of my assignments to build my publication record. I juggled my research with my new job on an acute mental health ward by presenting posters at conferences and giving teaching sessions to nurses at my Trust about the results of my dissertation.
In 2015/16 I was awarded a HEE/NIHR funded Master’s in clinical research. This allowed me a year’s protected time to conduct my own research on nurse-patient therapeutic engagement; an area of practice I felt needed to be improved. I used this time to explore this area, publish my results and use them to guide my thinking around a PhD proposal.
I was fortunate to be awarded a PhD studentship at King’s College London, where I was supported to write my HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship (CDRF) application. In 2018 I was awarded my CDRF and I’m currently working in my clinical area to co-design an intervention to improve nurse-patient therapeutic engagement on acute mental health wards.
“I’ve faced several challenges on my journey so far. To overcome them, my top tips are to build your networks early.”
Particularly for nurses, the clinical academic pathway is not well established. Seek out support from the many people who will be willing to help. Also, don’t be afraid to publish your work or present posters or oral presentations at conferences. If you’re newly qualified, like I was, it’s a great way to get your name out there and meet likeminded people.