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'Align yourself to people who are doing what you want to do'

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The opportunity to merge clinical work and research has been a true success in the eyes of Dr Joseph Manning, a clinical-academic senior research fellow in children, young people and family nursing, who works across Nottingham Children’s Hospital, Coventry University and The University of Nottingham.

“It’s a pretty big role to have,” Dr Manning says. “I have many hats that I wear within the organisations I work.” He explains how his focus is predominantly on patient care, specifically paediatric critical care, but he also contributes strategically across his organisation to help support nursing staff to engage and utilise research in clinical settings.

joseph manning

joseph manning

Dr Manning started his current role in September 2016, but he qualified as a children’s nurse in 2005. By assuming a career that involves both research and clinical practice, he has been able to challenge the status quo of conventional careers in nursing, furthering the nursing profession.

“The only way we can advance the practice of nursing is if we have individuals who are developing the research,” he tells me. “If we don’t, then who will?”

One of his proudest achievements has been completing his PhD. Few nurses complete a doctoral degree, but by doing so, Dr Manning is able to operate as an independent researcher, helping to enhance patient care on a greater scale.

“Things don’t happen overnight, but it’s about continuing to lobby”

His role is relatively new, but Dr Manning is adamant that even if a career pathway or role doesn’t currently exist, it doesn’t mean it can’t. “Persistence prevails,” Dr Manning says. “Things don’t happen overnight, but it’s about continuing to lobby.” He explains that teamwork and keeping the patient central to the goal is what will “make it happen”.

“Align yourself to people who are doing what you want to do,” he advises. Dr Manning reflects on a time when he was a student nurse working with a nurse consultant who showed him the positive impact nurses and researchers can have on their patients.

“I thought, ‘Wow, research can have the power to advocate for our patients and improve their care,’ — and I realised I wanted to not just deliver evidence-based practice, but also have the knowledge and skills to develop and deliver research,” he explains.

“I am starting to build a portfolio of research around child health priorities”

Today, that’s exactly what he does.

Dr Manning actively embarks on a broad programme of research that he feels amplifies the voices of those who are not always heard.

“I am starting to build a portfolio of research around child health priorities, which are of key interest to me and the hospital I work in. This relates to: supporting children and families that survive critical illness; the acute paediatric care of children in mental health crisis; and children transitioning between services,” Dr Manning explains. “It’s based around improving the experiences, outcomes and quality of care to children, young people and their families.”

Dr Manning explains how a fair proportion of his research surrounds children who survive critical illnesses and their families. The majority of children who endure a critical illness survive, but experience negatively impacts on their emotional health and wellbeing.

“It’s about ensuring that the children feel safe”

“Part of my research focuses on understanding children’s and families’ experiences of this and exploring ways in which we can better support them to improve their psychosocial outcomes,” he says.

“My research also involves exploring young people’s experiences of being cared for in children’s hospitals when admitted in mental health crisis. It involves the development and testing of sustainable interventions to improve knowledge, confidence and attitudes of staff in caring for these young people. It’s about ensuring that the children feel safe, and that the staff caring for them know how to make them feel safe,” he adds.

That’s what the best part of his job is, Dr Manning tells me: “my insights from practice informing my research, and my research having demonstrable benefit in practice. I think I have the best of both worlds.”

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