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Interning at the National Institute for Health Research

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Collage showing NHS, a patient in hospital and research

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The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) helps to improve the health and wealth of the nation by conducting cutting-edge research and focusing on the needs of patients and the public[1]. It is a comprehensive entity for publicly funded research within the NHS. Its remit covers answering focused questions related to the needs of the nation, and ensuring that the design, analysis and interpretation of research data are conducted appropriately.

Promoting and protecting the interests of patients and the public in health research is one of the NIHR’s core values. To enhance and spread the message of research to clinicians and the wider public, the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust developed the first pilot programme, the NIHR Research Envoy (6-month) Internship, in affiliation with Clinical Research Network (CRN) East Midlands. The programme aims to give healthcare professionals and other hospital staff an opportunity to be involved in supporting research around their clinical areas.

I found out about the research envoy internship programme through the NIHR website and an internal advertisement at the hospital trust I work in. The application process consisted of an application form detailing why we would be interested in the programme and how it could help us going forward. This is the first ever nation-wide pilot consisting of 8 selected individuals. The internship started in March 2017 and runs for six months. In terms of training, it includes five days learning about research, clinical trials, informed consent and an awareness of good clinical practice (GCP); followed by 10 days of placement in a research active area; and a further five days allocated for project work focused at creating a research-driven culture — from raising awareness of research within clinical teams to being research advocates for patients.

Being an intern

By Baguiasri Mandane

The 6-month internship expanded my knowledge and developed new skills that we need to enhance patient experience in research. I gained a deeper insight into the fundamentals of clinical research and learnt about good clinical practice standards and the process of informed consent. Furthermore, having worked alongside the cardiac research team at the Glenfield Hospital and the University of Leicester helped me to contextualise the practical aspects of research on a day-to-day basis. The placement provided an opportunity to put theoretical research aspects into practice, such as the importance of the site file organisation of commercial and non-commercial trials, and observing communications between patients and healthcare professionals during the informed consent process. There are some transferrable skills that pharmacists can use when discussing research as a treatment option for patients, such as communication and listening skills, and collaborative decision-making by putting the patient at the centre of care.

Pharmacists, both from primary and secondary care, hold a prime position in helping patients understand research, identify clinical trials of interest to the patient, and even get involved in conducting their own research. The UK Clinical Trials Gateway (UKCTG)[2] is a vital resource for both clinicians and patients. It provides a wealth of information, from the fundamentals of how trials work to linking patients with relevant researchers running trials that they might be interested in.

NHS research delivery statistics from 2015–­2016 show that over 600,000 people participated in clinical research studies[3]. To help support this interest in research from patients and the public, it is important that pharmacists are able to provide information accordingly or signpost to appropriate resources, such as the UKCTG[2].

Working as a research nurse and NIHR mentor

By Lathishia JoelDavid

The Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit (LCBRU) was founded in 2009 to provide an outstanding research infrastructure for clinical research alongside a team of expert clinicians, researchers and support staff from all over the world. The unit helps to conduct and deliver translational research by taking laboratory findings from bench to bedside.

As a research nurse, ‘research champion’ who spreads the research message and an NIHR mentor, I have the opportunity to support those new to the research world. From a mentor’s perspective, to create the strong research culture and to implement the research in practice, the intern’s placement objectives are clearly laid out on the first day. GCP was introduced accordingly during the placement. The following areas were covered:

  • Research governance;
  • Ethics and protocols;
  • Day-to-day management of clinical studies;
  • Roles and responsibilities of study coordinators;
  • Study set-up requirements;
  • Patient recruitment;
  • Data collection and analysis;
  • Sponsor review meeting;
  • External auditor’s visit for review and inspection purposes.

The mentee also had an opportunity to shadow informed consent and treatment randomisation, in addition to monitoring the pre-, peri- and post-operative care of patients. Furthermore, meetings with the post-doctoral scientists, research fellows and trial co-ordinators from different studies allowed the mentee to get an idea of the breadth of experience across the research team.

Time was also arranged for the mentee to meet the laboratory team in the department of cardiovascular sciences; observe a real-time interventional coronary artery bypass graft in cardiac theatres; and follow the patient’s journey from ward admission to post-operative care in intensive care unit.

As a NIHR mentor and a research nurse, this was a great learning and teaching experience for me. All the aims and the objectives of the research placement set out at the beginning were precisely achieved by the mentee. It was such a pleasure to teach theory into practice, and see the mentee‘s enthusiasm and eagerness to learn and spread the message of research going forward.

References:

(1) National Institute for Health Research. Vision, Mission and Aims. 2017. Available at: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/about-us/our-purpose/vision-mission-and-aims/ (accessed 15 August 2017)

(2) National Institute for Health Research. UK Clinical Trials Gateway. 2017. Available at: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/patients-and-public/how-to-join-in/uk-clinical-trial-gateway.htm (accessed 15 August 2017)

(3) National Institute for Health Research. Key Statistics 2015/16. 2016. Available at: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/about-us/how-we-are-managed/managing-centres/crn/key-statistics.htm (accessed 15 August 2017)

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