The MSK physiotherapist ensures that research evidence is relevant to today’s professional practice.
Tell us about your role, and how does your background help?
I have been a specialist musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapist for more than 20 years. My current post is split between clinical practice and research. Clinically, I work in a NHS integrated physiotherapy service in Staffordshire. In my physiotherapy research facilitator role, I’m based at the research institute for primary care and health sciences at Keele University, funded by the Clinical Research Network’s primary care specialty to facilitate musculoskeletal physiotherapy research.
This post helps bridge the gap between research and clinical communities, as researchers can find it difficult to keep up with the changes in the NHS. They are often unaware of local pressures and how physiotherapy provision and pathways differ between NHS trusts. With my local knowledge and my experience of liaising with clinicians, I can identify key personnel in the trust, and invite them to work with research teams to set up new physio studies. We then look at the feasibility of participating in a study and the practicalities of translating the research protocol in a way that works in the trust. I provide expert physio input to the development and delivery of research studies, and clinical leadership in implementing the results as part of evidence-based practice.
What difference are you making?
The rewarding aspect of my job comes from engaging a wider range of clinicians in the opportunity to become active in research, and helping research teams ensure that a study is designed to be meaningful in the NHS. I frequently provide advice in set-up and also throughout the lifespan of a study, to ensure that any practical issues, such resources for staffing, are addressed. I am also a point of contact to ensure study protocols are adhered to.
My strong local relationships – both within my clinical area and with researchers at Keele University – help me to engage effectively with clinicians and patients in my role as physiotherapy research facilitator. This has proven essential for optimising research engagement and translation in everyday physiotherapy practice.
Why is research a priority for physiotherapy at this time?
Increasing pressure on NHS resources means we need more clinically and cost-effective care pathways. Physiotherapy is often more cost-effective than other treatment options. So, as a profession, we need to demonstrate this, and ensure that the services we deliver are evidence-based. We need to provide appropriate evidence, both to patients about treatment options – thus supporting self-management – and to managers, commissioners and other clinical services about the effectiveness of physiotherapy services. If we don’t do the research, how will we find the evidence to support and inform clinical practice and secure the future of our profession?
How do you inspire colleagues who face so many other pressures?
I believe I inspire my colleagues by being a role model who has empathy with their busy roles while enabling and supporting research participation. I advertise the benefits of being engaged in research activities, such as building evidence for CPD files and having access to academia – including excellent evidence-based training opportunities. Being involved in research can also open doors into new roles such as clinical academic opportunities. Clinicians want the best for their patients and research provides this evidence.
Tell us about your current projects
I am facilitating the set-up of various studies: a large multi-centre trial for the treatment of severe sciatica, a randomised controlled trial for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome and another for treatment of hip osteoarthritis. I have also launched a critically appraised topic (CAT) group in my trust for clinicians interested in evidence-based practice for MSK conditions.
This group is a hub of the main Keele University CAT group. It provides an avenue for clinicians to ask questions of clinical importance and appraise the evidence.
What are your own career goals?
I want to ensure that research is fully embedded in our physiotherapy services and am considering doing a PhD in the future. fl
- Treena Larkin, an extended scope practitioner and physiotherapy research facilitator, is based at Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent NHS Trust and Keele University
AuthorTreena Larkin, an extended scope practitioner and physiotherapy research facilitator
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