CPD practice: your physiotherapy career (part 5)

In the fifth and final article in our series on career development, CSP professional adviser Gwyn Owen looks at breaking into research.

Welcome to the latest in our series of articles on career development. We have already looked at career development in clinical, education and leadership and management roles. This article shines the spotlight on research. 
We profile three CSP members at different stages of a career in research. Although has a unique story, they show how a research career is shaped by various factors, from organisational culture and access to advice and support, to personal circumstances and a networking ability. 
We hope these stories and tips will help you to explore the opportunities and resources available to support your journey into research. If you’re looking for some structure to guide your reflections – the prompts in parts one to four of this series should help.

Jennifer Harris 

Ms Harris is a children’s physiotherapist at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. She is about to start a secondment with National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, Yorkshire and Humber. The secondment is funded by the regional hub of the Council for Allied Health Professionals in Research and will work to develop an allied health professional (AHP) clinician researcher career competency framework.
‘My journey into research started in 2015 through the NIHR /Health Education England (HEE) integrated clinical academic pre-masters internship scheme. I used that opportunity to develop my research knowledge and skills and then got a place on the NIHR /HEE MSc in clinical research methods at the University of Leeds. Studying part-time meant I could keep my links with clinical. I was able to champion research within the trust and find opportunities to develop my research interests and profile. In 2016, I was involved in “Way Forward Doncaster” – a collaborative project exploring how co-productive approaches work to help transfer research knowledge into action. In 2017, I was selected to become an Allied Health Professions for Public Health (AHPs4PH) advocate completing a local public health service improvement project. In September 2017, I was nominated for the trust’s research of the year award and also received the star of stars award.’

Andrew Kerr 

Dr Kerr is a lecturer in biomedical engineering at the University of Strathclyde. He teaches clinical and sports biomechanics and rehabilitation technology to engineers and AHPs enrolled on the MSc in rehabilitation studies. The main focus of Mr Kerr’s role is directed at leading a small team of researchers working to explore technology and stroke rehabilitation.
‘I qualified as a physiotherapist in 1988 then spent 10 years in the NHS specialising in paediatrics. My interest in understanding human movement led to a postgraduate diploma in gait analysis, an MSc in physiotherapy and a PhD in biomechanics, which I completed while working as a physiotherapy lecturer. I became quite frustrated about how the emphasis on teaching in the department at that time limited my ability to conduct research. So I took a pay cut and a temporary contract to work at a university with an active rehabilitation research programme led by a professor with a drive for rehabilitation research using technology. After a few years on a temporary contract, with a number of successful applications for funding under my belt, I met the criteria for moving to a permanent academic post, which I have held for two years.’

Stephanie Best

Dr Best is a post-doctoral research fellow with the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University and Australian Genomics Health Alliance. She is part of a centre that researches healthcare resilience and implementation science. Dr Best is currently working on a project researching the implementation of genomics into clinical practice across Australia. During the next phase of the project, she will use interviews, focus groups and other research methods to gather data from clinicians, healthcare scientists, service leads and policy makers to identify barriers and enablers to the use of genomics. Once a baseline is established, the project will start to explore behaviour change techniques.
‘My research career has developed through a combination of luck, excellent family support, great mentors and a lot of hard work! Having spent over 25 years in clinical and managerial roles in the UK and internationally, I applied for a PhD scholarship – much to my surprise I got it. The PhD explored the adoption of innovation in health and social care, which led to a post as programme director of the MSc in health care management at Swansea University. While I was teaching and researching in south Wales I decided to apply for my current postdoctoral position and was delighted to get it.’. fl

Top tips to get you started from our three researchers

  • ‘no research is an island’ – make contact with networks where people share your passion and can offer information, advice and support to develop your work.
  • use your clinical experience and conversations with patients, the public and your peers to develop research questions that will really make a difference.
  • be brave – you have to put your head above the parapet. Take opportunities to present your work, voice your opinion and discuss your work with your peers.
  • grab opportunities, but be prepared to wait – you will have different flexibility at different points in your career. 
  • be honest – sell yourself but be truthful if don’t have a particular skill or experience.
  • reconnect with your favourite chair in the library. Making time to read is critical and easily forgotten under other pressures or distractions.
  • be open to ideas and support offered by people who know more than you do – your work may benefit from their input.
  • get to know your local research and development and information and communications technology teams so that you can access technical advice and support when you need it. 

Support for research

Gwen Owen

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