Pharmacist Helen March

Adding skills towards a future career in research

Researchers of the future at NCA are gaining important new skills through the Associate Principal Investigator (PI) scheme

This six month in-work training opportunity provides practical experience for healthcare professionals starting their research career and is endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and Royal Colleges.

At NCA five colleagues from nursing, allied health professional and pharmacy backgrounds have joined the scheme and have found out what it means to work on and deliver an NIHR-endorsed study trial under the mentorship of enthusiastic local PIs.

Fresh opportunities

Among them is Helen March, Senior Clinical Pharmacist in the Critical Care Pharmacy at the Royal Oldham Hospital. Helen explained: “I am looking forward to becoming more involved in clinical trials. As a clinical pharmacist I believe we are ideally placed to have a greater role in clinical trials. The Covid-19 pandemic really brought home to us the importance of research – being involved on both the REMAP-CAP and Recovery trials meant our patients benefitted from the best treatment.”

Advanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (ANNP) Jodie Brown, who works on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at The Royal Oldham Hospital, is the Associate PI for the FEED1 study. This is trying to find the best way to feed babies born between 30 and 33 weeks.

She became involved after her master’s degree in Advanced Nursing Practice sparked an interest in research.

Jodie said: “I felt this would be a good opportunity to get involved in research first hand and enable me to learn more about conducting a research study.

“Taking part in the FEED1 study as an Associate PI, and working alongside the site’s PI, has helped me developed skills in teaching, as well as learning the ‘behind the scenes’ aspect of research.”

Education role

Tom Curtis, an Advanced Practitioner in Salford Royal’s Critical Care Unit, says being able to focus on a particular trial was especially useful to him. He said: “There are multiple trials on the unit and it has been beneficial being more involved in one specific one. I have a lot of experience in identifying potential patients for trials and helping deliver the interventions. I enjoyed the wider aspects of being involved in the trial such as educating staff and working more closely with the PI and research team, and being able to review screening logs and identifying ways to overcome missing potential patients that could be recruited.“

There is more information about Associate PIs on the NIHR website and NCA’s Professor of Nursing Heather Iles-Smith and colleagues at the Centre for Clinical and Care Research are also happy to offer advice to anyone from a nursing, midwifery, AHP, pharmacy and healthcare science background who wants to develop research skills.

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