What a pleasure to be back together in person after two years of connecting virtually! We had a great mix of AHPs (qualified and student) attend the conference and the benefits of being together in one place was apparent with new connections and peer-support through networking.
The theme of the conference was getting started in research. We had two fantastic keynote speakers, Pippa Hales (SLT) from Papworth Hospital and Dr Lucy Southby (SLT) from Addenbrooke’s Hospital and North Bristol NHS Trust. Both have clinical-academic careers with different journeys to this, and both lead clinical teams. It was interesting to hear from AHPs who value and live clinical research but who also have clinical services to lead.
There were common experiences, messages and top tips:
As clinicians pursuing research alongside our clinical practice, we often look up to researchers and clinical academics, sometimes putting them on a pedestal and wonder how will we get there? Will we ever get there? But the common experience is that reaching out to our research and clinical-academic colleagues is welcomed with open arms and leads to mentoring, advice and collaborations. People working in research are passionate about their work and keen to get others involved and mentor. It was well put by Lucy Southby: we must don our “cloak of bravery”!
Our interest in research is often driven through clinical uncertainties, seeing gaps in our practice, and questioning why we do something as healthcare professionals. Audit, service improvement and service evaluation are fantastic places to get started with research skills – planning projects, collecting and analysing data, presenting work and improving patient care and services.
Research is a team effort. Although academic studies, like masters and doctorates, can feel lonely and a lot of work is independently completed, all research would not be successful without a great team. The network of great people that research brings is one of the most important and rewarding elements, locally within the organisations that we work in and nationally. We must identify, seek out and take opportunities that come up and the opportunities will grow – be brave (where’s that bravery cloak?)
Consider your manager’s perspective when planning your research goals. Try to make time to have discussions and plan research application timelines, go in with suggestions for solutions to barriers, explain the benefits of research opportunities, e.g. opportunity to recruit and train another person to develop specialist skill whilst you are developing your skills in research. Ultimately clinical research improves patient care and improves staff satisfaction and retention, so it is worth it.
Later in the morning, oral presentations brought an inspiring range of projects from different AHPs, from a nationwide survey of AHPs about research culture and capacity that will feed into national CAHPR work, to service improvement work for SLT and stroke patients. Not forgetting across organisation collaboration between students, academics and clinicians, and the importance of patients’ stories to understand and improve their experiences of care in radiography.
The afternoon brought two fantastic workshops about applying for funding. The Research Design Service East of England (https://rds-eoe.nihr.ac.uk/) provided excellent guidance about how to put together a funding application, with real life examples of AHPs who have been successful with funding! James Piercy (www.thepiercy.co.uk/) delivered a very engaging workshop about patient and public involvement in research grant applications with some great practical advice.
The day closed with the best oral and poster presentation prize giving.
The judges were so impressed with the oral presentations that they had to award two with first prize!
Scott Preston was joint winner with his presentation about patient experience of projection radiography, which involved qualitative analysis of 181 patient stories (!) with his co-researcher Jane-Harvey Lloyd. Felicity Cox also won with her presentation about expiratory muscle strength training within a community SLT service, a case series that identified a significant cost-saving of £27k following the intervention across only three patients! Felicity’s co-researcher, Kate Harrall, was in full support of Felicity with virtual attendance over Zoom.
Pippa Hales won best poster prize with her reflexive account of being interviewed to identify her preconceptions of her research topic before undertaking her own qualitative interviews.
The day was a big success with a lot of learning and a huge celebration of the great AHP research happening in the East of England. We can’t wait to see you all again next year.