Nurses and midwives around London thinking of changing careers or retiring are being offered the chance to move into clinical research nursing.
The new campaign – Keep Making a Difference – is being run by the National Institute for Health Research, the body that funds clinical research in the UK.
“Clinical research has transformed treatment in the NHS and the care patients receive”
The campaign is aimed at nurses and midwives in London, Kent Surrey and Sussex – the “pan-London” area described by the NIHR as a “hotspot” for clinical research.
The campaign is geared towards those in or nearing retirement, nurses coming back from a career break, and those seeking a change of career.
There are currently more nurses leaving the NHS each year than joining. NHS Digital figures show that one in 10 nurses exit the health service in England each year – last year the figure was 33,000.
The NIHR is keen to stop this nursing expertise being lost to the NHS, said Dr Susan Hamer, director of nursing at the institute.
“Reducing the number of nurses leaving the profession is a high priority for every NHS organization,” said Dr Hamer.
“NIHR is a significant funder of staff to support clinical research across the NHS and it’s important we play an active role in supporting these efforts,” she said. “Nurses and midwives are too important to lose.”
“Clinical research nursing is still hard work but not so physical”
At the same time, she said she believed that many nurses disillusioned with conventional nursing could be pleasantly surprised by the different experience of clinical research.
“Day in day out ward work is just very physical, especially for older nurses. Clinical research nursing is still hard work but not so physical,” said Dr Hamer.
It offers more flexible hours but demands a real focus on accuracy, she noted. “It’s not about academic nursing,” she said. “It’s more about good clinical care, a strong eye for detail and recording everything meticulously.”
She highlighted that it was also rewarding to know you are helping scientific breakthroughs. “Clinical research has transformed treatment in the NHS and the care patients receive,” Dr Hamer said.
“Research roles are highly rewarding and our campaign is all about encouraging nurses and midwives to consider a research role to keep on making a difference in the field of nursing and midwifery,” she said.
It is a booming sector and more nurses are needed. In 2017-18, a total of 725,333 people participated in NIHR supported clinical research studies, an 8.8% increase on 2016-17.
She said: “Clinical research nursing is a new and rapidly expanding branch of nursing and with research teams in demand across the country we need more research nurses and midwives to support these teams and deliver great clinical care.”
“The whole idea behind trying to make things better was very close to my heart”
One of the nurses featured in the campaign is Amy Barker, a senior research nurse in the Women’s Health Unit at West Middlesex Hospital.
She trained as a nurse in Brighton in 1997 and began working in an intensive care unit. However, she soon wanted a change, and spent time travelling and working in Australia.
On returning to the UK, she decided to move into research nursing. “I started to work at Kings College London, with lecturers, senior professors, people like that,” she said.
“I thought research nursing could combine both the skills that I had in nursing, along with the administrative skills that I had picked up,” said Ms Barker.
She noted that it took time to get to grips with academic language, but that she enjoyed knowing that her work was contributing to medical advances.
“It was fascinating, particularly in reproductive health, and childbirth, and women’s health,” she said. “The whole idea behind trying to make things better was very close to my heart.”
It also fitted well with her lifestyle as a mum. “The flexibility that it offers, being able to work within office hours, is really good,” Ms Barker said.
Nurses and midwives who are interested in exploring the idea of becoming a research nurse will be asked to sign up to a customised email series.
They will learn about clinical research and receive one-to-one support to help them transfer their skills to a research role.
They will then be offered the chance to shadow a research team in a local trust for a day and book an appointment online to talk directly to a clinical research nurse.
Nurses and midwives can learn more about research roles and the Keep Making A Difference campaign website.