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Cultivating a Research Culture: My journey as a research nurse in the hospice

Author: Kasia Patynowska

Published: May 2024

My own journey as a Research Nurse began in 2021 when I was offered a part-time secondment into the role. Back then, my research experience was limited, but my enthusiasm for diving into the world of research was already strong. I was passionate about making changes and improving care for people in the community, and I knew that with the right evidence it may be easier to influence the change. But I also had innate desire to learn and curiosity to explore.  

The Research Nurse role is not widely understood despite a recent census (NIHR 2022) revealing that  7,469 Research Nurses are actively contributing to healthcare research in the UK and Ireland. Traditionally confined to clinical trials and data collection in hospital settings, our role has evolved to encompass broader areas, including social care and palliative care research (Biswell et al. 2021). Yet, the implementation and scope of this role remains ambigous and variable (Tinkler et al. 2022).

In 2016 Marie Curie introduced an innovative model where the Research Nurse, funded by external grants, collaborated with an academic mentor (Research Fellow/Lead) within the hospices. Recognizing the pivotal impact of their role for cultivating a research culture, Marie Curie subsequently established permanent Research Nurse positions, with five of us currently working across the UK. We are supported by academic mentors and act as research champions embedded within local hospice and community-based teams.

The Marie Curie model has proven instrumental in increasing staff engagement with research and translating empirical evidence into actionable practice. As Research Nurses, we play a pivotal role in supporting practitioners from diverse disciplines, helping them to use existing research evidence and fostering a culture of evidence-based practice, e.g. by facilitating journal clubs, webinars, short education sessions, etc. We also help practitioners to write abstracts for conferences about the quality improvement projects they complete and facilitate conversations to develop ideas for new ones.  We know about funding options available and can guide practitioners on how to access them. We also use our connections with academic institutions to facilitate new collaborations between researchers and practitioners to answer real-world practice challenges.

Some of us have evolved into nurse researchers, leading and developing impactful research projects. My collegue Sarah Stanley led on the project exploring digital legacy within palliative care (Stanley et al. 2023), and she recently started PhD to continue her research in this area. Rachel Perry completed impactful work on the role of Men’s Shed and how to encourage the development of further Men’s Shed groups across the hospice sector (Perry and MacArtney 2023). I have also led on two research projects exploring wellbeing and support needs of lone working healthcare assistants providing hopice care at home (Patynowska et al. 2023, Patynowska et al. 2024).

Central to our ethos is the paramount importance of service user involvement. Armed with effective communication skills and clinical competence, we actively facilitate their participation in research projects, ensuring they stand as equal partners in our collective research endeavors.

Nevertheless, challenges persist. Balancing multiple projects necessitates ongoing mentorship and access to formal training, emphasizing the need for continuous professional development and networking opportunities.

For me, the role of a Research Nurse stands as the most challenging and rewarding chapter in my professional career. It presents a dynamic realm of autonomy, diversity, and limitless opportunities for learning while effecting tangible improvements in care for patients, their families, and the broader professional community. Along the way, I’ve discovered a newfound confidence and a stronger voice to champion change. I’ve came to view challenges not as obstacles, but as opportunities for growth and personal development. As I navigated the complexities of research, I found myself becoming more resilient, thinking more critically, and gaining a deeper understanding of the world around me. It shaped me into the person I am today. And finally, I’ve had the privilege of meeting incredible individuals and made new lifelong friendships.

As Research Nurses, we embody the bridge between research and palliative care practice. The success witnessed through the Marie Curie model serves as an example, guiding the efforts toward potential replication in diverse healthcare settings. Here’s to the pursuit of excellence, growth, and the continuous endeavor to bridge the research to practice gap—one meticulously executed research project at a time.

Note: I want to express my gratitude to my team for their support and the insightful discussions we’ve had together. These interactions have greatly influenced my reflections and the content of this blog.

References

Biswell R, E., Clark, M., Tinelli, M., Manthorpe, G., Neale, J., Whiteford, M. and Cornes, M., 2021. Beyond clinical trials: Extending the role of the clinical research nurse into social care and homeless research. Journal of Clinical Nursing.

Hernon, O., Dalton, R. and Dowling, M., 2020. Clinical research nurses’ expectations and realities of their role: A qualitative evidence synthesis. Journal of Clinical Nursing29(5-6), pp.667-683.

National Institute for Health and Care Research (2022) At least 7,469 research nurses and midwives across the UK and Ireland, new census reveals | NIHR

Patynowska KA, McConnell T, McAtamney C, Hasson F. ‘That just doesn’t feel right at times’–lone working practices, support and educational needs of newly employed Healthcare Assistants providing 24/7 palliative care in the community: A qualitative interview study. Palliative Medicine. 2023 Jun 19:02692163231175990.

Patynowska KA, Fantoni R, McConnell T, Finucane A, Donnelly P, McAtamney C, Walpole G, Clemo J, Wynne N, Leone E, Hasson F. 21 Wellbeing of lone working Healthcare Assistants and its impact on staff retention in hospice care at home services. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. 2024. 14 (1).

Perry R, MacArtney J. P-58 The role of the men’s shed in a hospice day service context: identifying features of a successful group and developing recommendations to expand the service. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. 2023. 13 (5).

Stanley S, Higginbotham K, Finucane A, Nwosu AC. A grounded theory study exploring palliative care healthcare professionals’ experiences of managing digital legacy as part of advance care planning for people receiving palliative care. Palliative Medicine. 2023 Oct;37(9):1424-33.

Tinkler, L., Robertson, S. and Tod, A., 2022. Multi-professional perceptions of clinical research delivery and the Clinical Research Nurse role: a realist review. Journal of Research in Nursing, 27(1-2), pp.9-29.

Tinkler, L., Smith, V., Yiannakou, Y. and Robinson, L., 2018. Professional identity and the Clinical Research Nurse: A qualitative study exploring issues having an impact on participant recruitment in research. Journal of advanced nursing74(2), pp.318-328.