Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) make up a third of the UK’s health and social care workforce and have huge potential for using research-based practice to improve the health and wellbeing of their patients.
That’s why NHS Trusts like the Northern Care Alliance and the National Institute for Health Research are putting support in place to encourage more AHPs to take those sometimes daunting first steps in research.
Here Katie Eves, a community stroke and neuro physiotherapist for the NCA in Bury, explains how the NIHR’s Early Career Research Development Programme has given fresh impetus to her career and improved her confidence.
“With the encouragement of my manager, I started on the programme in July 2021 and it’s been a great introduction into research. The course covers topics for personal growth and development such as leadership, communication, influencing and engagement as well as increasing your awareness of the policies and drivers for leading research in the NHS.
“It includes a two-day residential, one full day workshop each month and you are given one extra day a month for activities such as assignment writing, reading and other personal development related to the course. The programme is affiliated with the University of Liverpool so that on completing a reflective portfolio and developing a five-year career plan, you receive 20 credits towards a Masters module.
“I’ve also had a two-day placement through Manchester Metropolitan University and the Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre, where I observed trial meetings, committee meetings, steering group meetings, a patient and public involvement group and a meeting with the researchers.
“The programme has really improved my confidence in promoting a research culture within my team – I have implemented a monthly journal club which has been good learning for us all and has been supported by the Trust’s library service.
“Before the programme I was feeling a bit lost about my career direction but now I’ve developed my personal career plan and my job satisfaction has improved.
“Another of the highlights has been networking, which has opened up a world of opportunities and discussions – I’ve found everyone so supportive and welcoming.
“Mentoring and coaching were also very new experiences for me. I have found the coaching has re-shaped my thinking and how to approach a challenge, it isn’t something that comes naturally to me but it has been a good way to connect with others on the course to share ideas, thoughts and concerns.
“The mentors, facilitators, trainers, guest speakers and course leaders have all been fantastic, with a real sense of support, encouragement and inspiration.
“I have a very supportive manager and team who have helped me to work flexibly. I know some teams may find allowing the time out for the programme challenging but the development to you and the rewards it can bring to your team in the long run are worthwhile.
“Getting back into essay writing was daunting at first too but the team support you with the writing and you also get access to Liverpool University library.
“I would encourage others to apply for the programme. It has changed my outlook and has opened my eyes to the opportunities available. I’ve now also been successful with an application for an HEE/NIHR internship which will give me one day a week dedicated to research for six months. I am very excited to get started on my project and continue on my journey as a clinical academic.”