Research Nurse Secondment with CLAHRC NWC provides Deb with the skills to develop her role

Deb Roberts (pictured, left) has a constant thirst for learning. As a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME) Team at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, she has a vision to ensure patients are accessing the correct treatment they need via the most appropriate pathway and ensuring research plays its part in those frontline choices.   

“We treat patients from Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and Lancashire for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so I always want to be on top of my game and find out about research in this specialist area as it can play a valuable role in helping shape services. Research informs new proposals to clinical colleagues and enhances our offer to patients,” says an enthusiastic Deb.

“As a health professional, knowing and proving you have an evidence base is also essential for patient safety.”

It was this passion for understanding research that led Deb to respond to an advertisement for a Research Nurse Secondment 2015-16, with the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care North West Coast (CLAHRC NWC), in which her employer is a Partner.  “The Trust has a mission to develop staff as thinking practitioners with a research base behind them, so this opportunity ticked the right boxes for all parties.

“As I’ve always wanted to undertake research in the CFS area I went to see my line manager who was very supportive, and after being interviewed I was fortunate enough to secure the secondment. I agreed to spend two days a week under the supervision of several top academics and researchers at CLAHRC NWC. As I remain committed to clinical practice, the secondment being part-time was a very appealing factor.

“When I started it felt like another world. I was suddenly part of a team in the University of Liverpool with the responsibility of conducting a systematic review on social, cultural and individual influences on the beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of South Asian women regarding asymptomatic screening for female cancers.

“My main personal and professional aim in becoming the project’s Research Nurse, was to consolidate research knowledge and critical analysis skills (gained from my Master’s Degree), learn new insights into reviewing literature and to understand the resources available for researchers and practitioners. The eventual outcome being the development of knowledge and an ability to generate collaborations for my own applied health research.    

“It was great to be taken seriously and having an opinion that mattered as I started to familiarise myself with university research systems, making contacts, performing online searches and starting to review literature.

“It was also fascinating to work in such a collaborative atmosphere with expertise from so many people and different organisations. Working with these contributors was a big confidence boost for me.” 

Participants in the project included Principal Investigator, Dr Steve Brown, (University of Liverpool); Co-Principal Investigators, Dr Pooja Saini (University of Liverpool); Mr Mysore Chandrashekar (Consultant Breast Surgeon, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital NHS Trust); Professor Anil Jain (University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust); Professor Kinta Beaver (University of Central Lancashire); Dr Rachel Anderson de Cuevas (University of Liverpool), Eleanor Kotas (University of Liverpool); Saima Rashid, Asian Women Breast Cancer Support Group; Naheed Tahir & Saiqa Ahmed (Public Advisers).

“The incidence of some female cancers in South Asian women, such as breast cancer, is equal to and exceeding national rates. South Asian women diagnosed with female cancers have poorer relative survival rates than the national average. Full reasons for this are unclear, but poorer survival is partly attributable to South Asian women’s lower uptake of screening opportunities, which is attributable to cultural factors within South Asian populations.

“I like to see a clear picture of what I’m doing and being a methodical person always wants to see a distinct route between start and finish. I could see and feel that during this piece of research.

“Working on this project has given me a confidence boost to embark on my own reviews in my specialist area and outline my own research ideas. I now have experience of successful multi-stakeholder collaborations, involving both acute medicine and community medics and support groups; and an appreciation of the essential role of public advisors.”

After a year at the CLAHRC NWC, Deb’s secondment is complete and her name now features on a manuscript being submitted to leading journals. It is envisaged that the research will be published in a peer-reviewed journal before end of 2016.

“I really enjoyed the experience and seeing how my day-to-day input was gradually contributing to the final research paper was exciting. It’s something I’m really proud of. My employer is actively promoting its clinical research and education work, that commitment to looking at changing practice for improved patient delivery will benefit from my experience.

“The secondment has also promoted and informed a trust based pilot project that I am progressing to a larger initiative; in consultation with CFS consultants at the Trust’s Tropical and Infectious Diseases Department. There is also a commitment from my inter-disciplinary team to support my practice involvement and research initiatives, in direct response to the experience gained during the secondment.

“I have gained confidence and self-belief through my experience at CLAHRC NWC and now recognise the ability to communicate opinion and rationale for my academic outputs, as much as clinical decisions. I have renewed enthusiasm for my role and commitment to my organisation, partly through cultivation of relationships with the Trust’s Research, Development and Innovation Services. I feel equipped to engage proactively now in the Trust’s research agenda and am going back to my job with a new empowered impetus, boosted confidence and enhanced skills. Learning doesn’t get any better than that.”

Posted on: 10 August 2016