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The best of both worlds

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A career close to practice and steeped in research is a rare thing for nurses, but it’s what is on offer at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Dr Joseph Manning started his career at Nottingham University Hospitals as a registered nurse in children’s services. But he always had a hankering to lead and generate research, and find the evidence to prove the best practice that would deliver the best outcomes for patients and their families.

“My taste for research came after I spent a day as a student with a nurse consultant in dermatology,” he says. “She gave me an insight into the power research can have and used it as a powerful tool to advocate for her colleagues and patients.”

He decided to do the same, and when he joined NUH he was delighted to find the trust supported his desire to stay in practice while getting his doctorate and leading a research project on the effects of surviving a critical illness on children’s wellbeing and psychological state.

“I came into nursing to care for patients but I want to generate the evidence base for that care,” he says. “I don’t want to choose between clinical practice and research - I want to be able to do both, just like the medics do.”

That equity with medics is something NUH is keen to offer nurses. And Dr Manning, now a clinical research fellow at the trust, is an example of how seriously NUH invests in its clinicians’ desire to pursue clinical academic or research careers.

Head of nursing and midwifery research/senior research fellow Dr Joanne Cooper is evidence of the trust’s long-term commitment to research in nursing.

Dr Manning says having this role is crucial. “To deliver the best patient care, frontline services are essential. But it’s not just about frontline care. NUH is thinking about how can we talent-spot and retain the best professionals - nurses and midwives to drive the practice agenda - generating best clinical evidence or translate it into practice.”

Dr Cooper says her role is to support nurses to interpret that in their practice.

Her job is to encourage nurses to think about research and the way it could enhance their skills and careers while they continue to develop clinical expertise, and take their findings into practice.

“We encourage nurses to become confident in core skills for patient care, such as learning how to develop a question that can be explored using research methods, starting a small research project, applying for funding - ranging from something as small as £200 to travel somewhere to do a scholarship to a larger research project,” says Dr Cooper. “We support nurses to maintain skills in applying research to practice, using and developing evidence, navigating the political landscape, and supporting staff to maintain their skills.”

NUH has success stories from many nurses. Everyone has achieved something different. For example, Dr Karine Latter is leading national policy and setting standards for the support nurses provide for the needs of families with children with cleft lip. Andrew Dainty is looking at nurse-led CBT for patients with IBS and medically unexplained symptoms. Alongside her corporate role, Dr Cooper recently conducted a study funded by Crohn’s and Colitis UK to explore how people make decisions and balance risk when taking part, or considering participation, in stem cell research.

“I feel fortunate to work here. NUH has a fantastic understanding around the benefits of nurses in research,” she says.

And that support goes right to board level. Chief nurse Mandie Sunderland is creating chief nurse excellence in care fellows. “So it’s not just about gaining higher degrees, we will support those nurses who want to use evidence-based practice to deliver better patient care,” she says. “This innovative and inclusive strategy says come here and we will honour you and give you that support, as someone who is delivering frontline care but with access to what is happening more broadly in the Trust, including mentorship by senior nurses. About one day a week is protected time to do research in a project that will improve patient care while the rest is in clinical practice.

“As a minimum, NUH wants every nurse to be an evidence-based practitioner, however they achieve that. It offers great opportunities to support clinical academic and research aspirations.”

Nurses and midwives have many opportunities to learn and develop at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. We’re now recruiting band 5 nurses and midwives across all specialties.

To find out where your career could lead with NUH come and meet our team on Friday 25 September (9am-5pm) at Nottingham Forest Football Club, City Ground, Trent Bridge.

To interview on the day register online or send your CV to

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