When Jenny Mather decided she needed a change after 15 years in community nursing, working in research was a practical choice rather than a burning vocation.
Her new job as a diabetes research nurse was close to home and fitted in with her family commitments – but she was surprised to find it hugely enjoyable and it’s now led her onto a pioneering role on a brand new team.
Northern Care Alliance is the first trust within the North West to have a community research team, enabling local people to get involved in studies in their own homes and community settings. Jenny is one of three colleagues on the team and says it’s the perfect blend for her.
She explained: “I absolutely loved it when I moved into diabetes research and learnt a lot. But I realised it wasn’t what I wanted forever because I was confined to one place and one disease area.
“Working in the community means I’m using the skills I built up as a district nursing sister while working on different studies across different specialties.”
In the first few months since the team was set up Jenny has toured events and community venues sharing a survey looking at loneliness and social isolation, worked with parents of excessively crying babies and is about to start evaluating a communication screening tool for stroke survivors.
The team is also recruiting to Genes & Health, one of the world’s largest community-based genetics studies. It is analysing the genes and health of people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage in the hope of understanding more about these communities’ high rates of heart disease, diabetes, and poor health.
Jenny said: “People tend to be surprised that they can actively take part in research in their own homes or at events and meetings at places like mosques, social groups and colleges. It does help to break down some of the barriers to research – it’s much easier especially if they have health problems or have a young baby or need a carer to come to appointments, it’s cheaper and it takes less of their time.
“This is an unusual role and it’s really motivating to be doing something new and creating fresh opportunities. Healthcare staff working in the community aren’t often exposed to research and it would be great to see more involvement so we can improve care and treatment.”