In September 2022, together with NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula (CRNSWP), we launched a new internship programme to help health and social care professionals take time out of their demanding day-to-day work life to see how research could support them in their work and develop their careers.
Four interns were awarded to candidates with a range of interests spanning stroke prevention, End of Life care, children’s dental health and children’s mental health. With access to the skills, knowledge and experience of colleagues across the ARC and CRN and with support from an academic mentor, four interns have developed their research knowledge and skills through a combination of formal training and hands on learning.
As their year-long placements come to an end, we’ve been catching up with them to find out what the opportunity meant for them and their work, and the impact it has had for local people and services. In the final of our series we hear from Naomi Pritchard, Clinical Quality Assurance Lead and Improvement Lead at North Devon Hospice.
What has your internship looked like in practice?
Doing the internship has given me the time and space to develop my research knowledge and skills so I can take on a research leadership role. My placement has been divided into 3 phases. In the first phase I developed an academic understanding of research in practice through e-learning, completeing a Masters module called ‘Systematic Reviews for Policy and Practice’, and by attending a conference. During the second phase I shadowed research teams in another hospice and at an acute trust to see research in practice. This was helpful to gain a practical understanding of things like consent, trials and systems management and data gathering. It was an opportunity too to network with people that I’ll be involved with in my new research leadership role. The third phase, which I’m in now, is about developing a Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) protocol at the hospice where I work. I’m using my internship time to shadow PPI working groups and workshops to develop my understanding and skills in organising and facilitating PPI groups in End of Life Care.
Have you enjoyed it? What have you learned?
I’ve really enjoyed getting my teeth into something new and it’s been great having time out of my day job for research. I’ve learnt so much in such a short space of time. I think that’s because of the bespoke nature of the internship; I’ve been able to design it, guided by any gaps in knowledge, to meet my needs. I’m passionate about our care being evidence-based and now I can lead our organisation to contribute to that research-based evidence. Its inspired me to continue the work to introduce PPI into our hospice.
What have you valued most about your experience?
It’s been valuable having the other interns for support. We met at the conference early in the internship and it helped us to develop relationships for afterwards when we were working remotely – I’m better with face to face! The intern meetings were great for just coming together with academics and mentors to talk about our progress and help focus my mind. And having a budget to use has been valuable – it gave me permission to go and do whatever I needed.
Has your research impacted your day-to-day work?
At work we contributed recently to a Plymouth University research project called ‘Research Priorities in Palliative and End of Life Care in the Southwest’. We hosted patient and professional focus groups and I lead the teams to recruit patients, acting as a research resource for our staff and helping to facilitate the patient group. It was an amazing experience. It inspired me to ensure we are truly listening to patients and their families’ experiences of care, helping us to identify where the gaps lie.
I also feel inspired to get our clinical teams to join the facilitated groups we’ll run because, in my 20 years as a specialist palliative care nurse, I haven’t heard patients talk as they did while in a group. I believe it was the internship and everything that I’ve learnt that gave me the confidence to contribute in such a meaningful way. Out of all the focus groups across the South West, the researchers said our group was the biggest and ‘richest’ in terms of the powerful stories told by people who were so clearly towards the end of their life. This experience feels like the tip of the iceberg for getting involved in research in the future!
I’m exploring the possibility of getting involved with a Systematic review for PPI in End of Life Care – this will depend on the time commitment alongside my job – but again, I wouldn’t have considered this opportunity before and even if I don’t get involved in the process – I’m keen to see the results to support our PPI work in the future.
Would you recommend research to others?
I’d say research is essential to ensure evidence-based safe care. I’d recommend getting involved with research delivery; it’s all about making sure we’re offering the best care and that has to be a priority!