A career in research

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It's not always easy to decide if the role of research nurse, or nurse researcher is for you. Indeed, it's not always clear what the roles entail, and how one might progress. This section is designed to answer some of those questions. 


Career pathways for research nurses

AUKUH National Clinical Academic Careers Development Group for NMAHPs

Set up in 2012, the work of this group is based on the fundamental assertion that clinical academic professionals make a significant contribution to improving patient experience and health outcomes.

Website: AUKUH National CAC Development Group for NMAHPs

Research capacity building collaboration Wales

Building research capacity for nursing and Allied Health Professionals. All members of the RCBC scheme join the Community of Scholars. The Community of Scholars provides a mechanism for adding value to the studentships. It provides mentorship and master classes in research methods and research leadership.

Website: http://www.rcbcwales.org/

Capitalising on the Contribution of Nurses in Clinical Research

Set up in 2012, this two year RCN Research Society project seeks to identify clinical research nurses and HCSW/Clinical Trials Officers working in the UK, and identify the 'added value' contribution of the nurse/HCSW to the NIHR and other research recruitment processes and workforce development models to support this professional area.

Website: Capitalising on the contribution of nurses in clinical research

Academy of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting Research (UK)

The first ever Academy of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting Research (UK) was launched on 26 February 2009 to bring together all aspects of nursing, midwifery and health visiting research in the UK. The Academy will be responsible for establishing effective mentoring and leadership schemes to benefit all clinicians and practitioners working in nursing, midwifery and health visiting research.

Website: http://www.researchacademy.co.uk/

Clinical Academic Training Pathway for Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professions (England)

Following the recommendations of the "Finch report" in 2007, funding has been secured to implement a number of research training schemes which, collectively, will offer a comprehensive clinical academic training pathway. The scheme is administered by the NIHR Trainees Co-ordinating Centre (NIHR TCC), and offers four levels of integrated training:

  • Masters in Research (MRes) or Masters in Clinical Research
  • Doctorate by Research (not professional doctorate)
  • Clinical Lectureships
  • Senior Academic Clinical Lectureships

Website: http://www.nihrtcc.nhs.uk/

In 2012, the Mentorship for Health Research Training Fellows scheme was launched to support nurses, midwives, allied health professionals and healthcare scientists who wish to follow a clinical academic career and support these health professionals to progress, nationally and internationally. The scheme is designed to support the NIHR CAT and HCS Programmes in developing a world-class research environment and culture across these professional groups in England by providing high quality mentorship to funded training fellows and an outreach programme which will foster a community of mentorship practice across England. 

Career pathways (UK)

In 2001 Joyce Kenkre and David Foxcroft, on behalf of the RCN Research Society, mapped out five research career pathways. Each pathway is presented as a matrix, to demonstrate the facility to develop a career along a single pathway or by developing a greater knowledge by moving between pathways. The information described includes: the typical role, experience, knowledge, training, skills and qualifications expected at each stage along each pathway.

In 2007, the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) published recommendations for preparing and supporting integrated academic careers in nursing, the so-called "Finch report".

  • UKCRC (2007), "Developing the best research professionals. Qualified graduate nurses: recommendations for preparing and supporting clinical academic nurses of the future. Report of the UKCRC Subcommittee for Nurses in Clinical Research (Workforce)"
    Website: http://www.ukcrc.org/publications/reports.aspx


Competences, research nurse job profiles and job descriptions

NHS Career planner for nurses

The Nursing Career Framework interactive tool is designed to help you plan and explore future steps in your nursing career.  The tool builds on the pathway-based framework set out in the post registration career framework for nurses. You may want to develop a  career in management, education or research, or develop yourself clinically; most nursing careers combine one or more of these elements in varying degrees. The tool contains useful information about the skills and competences you may need to work at different levels in the pathways.

Website: http://nursingcareers.nhsemployers.org/

Agenda for Change Job profiles and descriptions

National Job Profiles for Nursing and Midwifery on the NHS Employers website now contain clinical researcher profiles for Band 6, 7, 8a and 8b, c, d. If the website link below does not work, go to the NHS Employers website, http://www.nhsemployers.org/, and in the left-hand navigation click on: Pay & Contracts > Agenda for Change > National Job Profiles > Nursing and Midwifery

Website: NHS Employers national job profiles for nursing and midwifery

(In addition, the RCN's website has a section dedicated to issues around Agenda for Change, http://www.rcn.org.uk/support/pay_and_conditions/agendaforchange)

Generic research nurse job descriptions

In 2005, NHS Lothian developed generic research nurse job descriptions for Grades E, F, G, and H. These are available on the Scottish Research Nurse and Co-ordinator's Network

Website: http://www.srncn.scot.nhs.uk/Documents.aspx

Competency Framework for Clinical Research Nurses

The Competency Working Group has now published its framework 

Website: http://www.rcn.org.uk/development/researchanddevelopment/rs/competencies 


Publications and other websites of interest

AUKUH Clinical Academic Careers Group for Nursing and Midwifery (2014), Clinical Academic Careers Pathway Capability Framework, Association of UK University Hospitals

NHS Careers (2013) has released a video promoting training in clinical academic research.

AUKUH Clinical Academic Careers Group for Nursing and Midwifery (2013), The nurse and midwife research clinical academic: development, progress and challenges, Association of UK University Hospitals

Department of Health (2012), "Developing the Role of the Clinical Academic Researcher in the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions", Department of Health, London, UK

Department of Health (2011), "The Government's response to the recommendations in Frontline Care: the report of the Prime Minister's Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England", Department of Health, London, UK

Of the 20 recommendations in this report, four refer specifically to clinical academic careers:

  • Recommendation 5: evaluating nursing and midwifery
  • Recommendation 9: building capacity for nursing and midwifery innovation
  • Recommendation 14: flexible roles and career structures
  • Recommendation 19: integrating practice, education and research

NHS Education for Scotland (NES) (2011), "National guidance for clinical academic research careers for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions in Scotland"
Website: http://www.nes.scot.nhs.uk/education-and-training/by-discipline/nursing-and-midwifery/resources/publications/national-guidance-for-clinical-academic-research-careers-for-nursing,-midwifery-and-allied-health-professions-in-scotland.aspx.

Welsh Assembly Government (2009), "Post Registration Career Framework for Nurses in Wales", WAG, Cardiff, Wales.
Website: http://wales.gov.uk/docs/phhs/consultation/careerframework/090924reporten.pdf

UKCRC (2007), "Developing the best research professionals. Qualified graduate nurses: recommendations for preparing and supporting clinical academic nurses of the future. Report of the UKCRC Subcommittee for Nurses in Clinical Research (Workforce)"
Website: http://www.ukcrc.org/publications/reports.aspx

Buchan, J. & Evans, D. (2007), Realising the benefits? Assessing the implementation of Agenda for Change, King's Fund, London, UK.
Website: http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/realising_the.html 

Butterworth, A. et al (2005), "Clinical academic careers for educators and researchers in nursing: Some challenges and solutions", Journal of Research in Nursing 2005 10: 85-97
Full article downloadable from http://jrn.sagepub.com/content/vol10/issue1/ 

McMahon, A. (2005), The impact of Agenda for Change on nurses working in research roles: a snapshot analysis, Royal College of Nursing, London, UK. The analysis of the responses to the questionnaire which was sent out in July 2005 is now available (MS Word, 58K).

Scottish Executive booklet and online resource (2005), "Making choices facing challenges: developing your research career in nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions". Available from the Scottish Executive website. The vision of the modern nurse, midwife and allied health professional (AHP) researcher is of someone who is not only actively involved in clinical practice, but is also seen to be vital to its development, delivery and evaluation.

Strategic Learning and Research Advisory Group (StLaR) HR Strategy. This work, started in 2002, was the pre-cursor to the UKCRC subcommittee for Nurses in Clinical Research (Workforce). Website: http://www.stlarhr.org.uk/welcome

Kenkre J, Foxcroft D.R. (2001) "Career pathways in research: clinical practice" Nursing Standard 16, 4, 40-43 (PDF, 161K)

Kenkre J, Foxcroft D.R. (2001) "Career pathways in research: clinical research" Nursing Standard 16, 5, 41-44 (PDF, 164K)

Kenkre J, Foxcroft D.R. (2001) "Career pathways in research: support and management" Nursing Standard 16, 6, 33-35 (PDF, 183K)

Kenkre J,Foxcroft D.R. (2001) "Career pathways in research: academic" Nursing Standard 16, 7, 40-44 (PDF, 221K)

Kenkre J, Foxcroft D.R. (2001) "Career pathways in research: pharmaceutical" Nursing Standard 16, 8, 36-39 (PDF, 155K)

Kenkre J (1998) "Employment brief 22/98. The clinical research nurse in NHS Trusts and GP Practices: guidance for nurses and their employers" Royal College of Nursing, London, UK (PDF, 89KB)