Research fellowships will help improve patient care

researcher looks at test tube

Two members of staff at BHP founder member University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) will begin their NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship (CDRF) this month.

Supported by the UHB Integrated Clinical Academic Team, Lisa Shepherd and Nicola Anderson were awarded the prestigious fellowships which enable them to undertake patient-focused research and complete a PhD, whilst continuing to develop their clinical expertise.

The Fellowship funds the PhD and related research costs, part-time release from clinical work, and also includes support provided by a team of expert academic and clinical supervisors.

Lisa, an Endocrinology Advanced Nurse Practitioner based at Heartlands Hospital, will conduct research into Addison disease, an adrenal condition that means some hormones are not produced. UHB is one of the leading centres in the country for adrenal care, welcoming visitors from across the UK and Europe.

Lisa’s previous research suggests  patients know how to adjust their medication on a daily basis, but don’t always successfully apply that knowledge during times of illness. The CRDF will explore potential reasons for this.

“My fellowship will involve four phases over four years, starting with the collection of evidence and previous research,” said Lisa.

“I was previously awarded a place on the Health Education England (HEE) funded BHP Masters-to-Doctorate Bridging Programme, and would like to thank my supervisor Professor Debbie Carrick-Sen and the Integrated Clinical Academic Team for their support during my clinical research career”.

“It’s good that clinicians are involved in research, but the people who really benefit from clinical research are the patients.”

Lisa’s supervisors include Dr Abd Tahrani and Professor Wiebke Arlt. Her Fellowship involves working with research professionals from across the globe, including a professor in Australia.

Nicola, a Senior Renal Research Nurse, will look at how to optimize the use of digital quality of life and symptom questionnaires with patients receiving haemodialysis. The QEHB Renal Unit also has a strong international reputation for integrating research and innovation into clinical practice.

Nicola’s CRDF will also build on her previous research, which was funded by the QE Kidney Patient’s Association and UHB Charity.

“My Fellowship will focus on a patient-identified important area of research,” said Nicola.

“Asking patient’s to complete these questionnaires with feedback and action from the clinical team has been shown to lead to an improved quality of life and better survival rates in other specialties.

“My research will consider whether this will also be the case for patients receiving haemodialysis, and will consider the possibility of a standardized electronic questionnaire that could be used in routine practice.”

Like Lisa, Nicola’s research has four parts, including a review of existing research literature, usability testing, and the production of an education package for renal clinicians.

Nicola’s research has also led to a number of global opportunities, including an invitation to speak at the International Society of Nephrology World Congress 2019 in Australia.

Nicola’s academic supervisors include Professor Mel Calvert and Dr Derek Kyte, both based at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Patient Reported Outcomes Research (CPROR). Her clinical supervisors include Professor Paul Cockwell, Consultant Nephrologist and Mary Dutton, Senior Renal Research Nurse.

Nicola has been a research nurse for over 15 years.

“Although I’ve been involved in research for many years, the CRDF is a unique opportunity to become a researcher in my own right,” added Nicola.

“The training and development within the Fellowship makes it the best possible grounding for a career in NHS research.”

Lisa and Nicola have both benefitted from the support of the Integrated Clinical Academic team, who provide advice to UHB clinical staff who want to undertake research, or combine a career in research and clinical practice.

Over the last four years, the team has assisted a large number of staff at UHB and across the West Midlands to develop their research skills and clinical academic careers.

The team is based in the Institute of Translational Medicine and delivers regional HEE funded clinical academic careers training programmes (such as the Masters-to-Doctorate Bridging Programme). Click here for details of the clinical academic careers programmes available in the West Midlands.