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Combining a passion for research with an interest in dementia

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Like many student nurses, Katie Davis had not considered undertaking a career in research. But now she has there’s no looking back

katie davis

Katie Davis

As the importance of healthcare research has grown, so too has the involvement of nurses.

Nurse researchers and clinical research nurses can work in a wide range of settings, from hospitals to universities. Unfortunately, most nursing graduates disregard the option to get involved in research – often because they don’t even realise that it is an option.

“It’s a kind of alternative that a lot of nurses get into but is not really spoken about,” says Katie Davis, a first-year PhD student at the University of Manchester.

”It’s a kind of alternative that a lot of nurses get into but is not really spoken about”

Ms Davis started her nurse training when she was 26 years old, but didn’t know she would eventually become a researcher.

Looking back at the path she has followed, she credits a woman in her home town named Louise as the person who initially inspired her to become a nurse.

“I wanted to be a pop star when I was a kid,” Ms Davis says. “I’d completed an undergraduate degree in philosophy and looked at various jobs and career pathways. I didn’t consider nursing until a bit later.

“I remember looking at Louise and thinking, ‘you’re amazing and I want to be just like you’. She was a complete inspiration to me.

“I’ll see her occasionally when I go back to my home town. If I bump into her I’ll say ‘you’re the reason I am where I am now’.”

In Ms Davis’s last year as an undergraduate student nurse, she was offered the opportunity to do a Master’s degree on a full-time basis.

“All my fees were paid for, so, of course, I had to take the opportunity,” she says. “It was when I was doing my Master’s that I had the chance to do my own research. I ended up researching student nurses’ and their experiences of caring for people with dementia. The amazing thing about that was that I was really passionate about what happened.”

”I ended up researching student nurses’ and their experiences of caring for people with dementia”

The Scottish Dementia Working Group – a campaigning group that is for people living with dementia and run by people who are living with dementia – helped change Ms Davis’ attitude and perceptions.

While completing her postgraduate degree, she began to wonder whether there was any way she could combine her passion for research with her love of working with people who have dementia.

“My supervisor said, ‘why don’t you look at getting a PhD and further your research training with the goal of becoming a nurse researcher?’,” Ms Davis recalls. “So it was really my Master’s supervisor who took me down that route.”

From that point on it was as if a fire had been ignited in Ms Davis.

”I’m a bit of a geek really, I love learning about new things all the time”

“I’m a bit of a geek really,” she says. “I love learning about new things all the time and I think that, for me, that was what was so attractive about undertaking a career in research.”

Ms Davis thinks that more nursing graduates should consider going into a research-based career. To promote this, she has written several blogs, launched Twitter campaigns and spoken to other nurses about the matter.

“I think it’s important for people to be aware that there are other options,” she says. “Look at what is available. Look at the NHS, which helps fund people to undertake a Master’s degree.”

She acknowledges that “this path isn’t right for everyone,” but says, “It’s about finding what’s right for you.” 

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