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The field of clinical research is fertile ground to explore and redirect your career.

Posted on by Kelly Gleason in Research

This is something I have believed and encouraged people to take advantage of for years.  I have tried to help people identify what they love most about their work and encouraged them to then use that to carve out a career that is satisfying and allows them to give their best to others.

Over the years, I have witnessed several individuals successfully achieve this. I have watched direct entry midwives move into oncology research, using their clinical and patient experience to step into a new clinical area while developing new skills in research.

I have helped scientists, grown tired of the lab, to find renewed enthusiasm for research in translational research roles in a hospital environment. The patient contact and the application of science is what satisfied them in ways they had not known mattered until they experienced the field of translational science from a clinical perspective.

…and the list could go on and on…

  • Cardiology nurses developing an interest in cancer or dementia and using their research skills to bridge the transition to these new clinical areas.
  • Data managers starting PhDs in the lab.
  • Clinical research nurses moving into Quality Assurance roles in research facilities or tissue banks.
  • Translational researchers studying Medicine.

The paths are varied and when carefully thought through, serve to support each individual’s uniqueness. I have supported many people from all backgrounds to use the richness of the field of clinical research to redirect their career pathway to highlight both their interest and their talent.

I often receive emails from people asking for help getting into the field of research.  I usually meet them for coffee to hear more about their previous experience, as well as to better understand their intentions for moving into clinical research.  I then try to offer suggestions of how they could improve their chances of being successful in an interview for a research role.

Lately, I have had some incredibly satisfying experiences helping people refine and define what matters most to them and what path would allow them to experience more of that. These individuals have appeared from the most unexpected places, leading me to believe that the NHS is full of talent…we just need to recognise and develop it.

From phlebotomy to clinical research:

Rachel had been working in the phlebotomy room of a busy oncology clinic for a couple years. She had regularly collected samples for the various research projects and had good relationships with the research team.  One day, a member of the research team and Rachel were talking and Rachel expressed boredom in her current role and wondered if she may find a way to transfer to a research role? Rachel had a degree in science and had an appetite for playing a more active role in supporting the development of new treatments through research. We suggested she do a GCP course and shadow team members who she worked with in the oncology clinic to get a good overview of the various roles in clinical research. This real life exposure to the field of research, coupled with Rachel’s initiative to enroll herself on a GCP course as well as an Informed Consent and Ethics course gave her a good introduction to the field of research. Her efforts had served her to better prepare herself for interviews for entry level roles in research. Rachel is now a data manager in an oncology research unit in a large London teaching hospital.  She is thrilled with her new role and excited about developing her career in clinical research.

From translational research to science communication:

Ali had a degree in science and after a few years working in in the lab, he moved to a translational research role in an active oncology research team.  He always thought he wanted to do a PhD in oncology.  He was extremely enthusiastic about science and more specifically oncology. When asking how Ali how things were going in his work, he always started with the science.  But after being offered the opportunity of a part time PhD in his institution, he realised this was not the right thing to do…or at least not right now. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want helps you to define more clearly what you do! Ali was a great bridge builder between the various stakeholders involved in translational research, he had a knack of helping groups to better understand each other.  He was also great with patients and was able to easily explain complicated scientific information in a way that the average lay person could understand.  Ali had a natural tendency for harmony and communication and his enthusiasm for science was simply infectious.  It was suggested that he explore science communication as a career path. Ali is starting a Masters of Science Communication this year and we are all very excited as it seems he has found a way to apply his talents and interest in science to help others.  We can’t wait to see where this takes him, but his future looks bright…he better wear shades!

From clerical support to academic research pathway:

For years Nat worked in the clerical office, but one day he came asking how he might develop his career in clinical research and wanted to know if there was a role he could do considering his background. He had studied dentistry but had to leave his country with little notice, leaving behind his dreams of being a dentist. Despite this major derailment of his life, he still yearned to help patients and wondered how he might still achieve this.  After exploring his background and intentions for developing a career in clinical research, Nat attended several courses inducing GCP, Informed Consent and Ethics in Research.  He shadowed various researchers on his days off. It soon became clear that he was not going to play a supporting role in research. He wished to pursue an academic career pathway. He felt aiming for a PhD may be too ambitious considering his clerical background in the UK.  Nat is now enrolled in a Masters of Oral Pathology which he hopes will lead him to a PhD and a career in academia. There is talent in the NHS, we just need to identify it and support its development.

The field of clinical research is a rich environment to learn and grow.

It allows you to:

  • use your experience
  • expand you knowledge and skills
  • identify your talents and interests
  • redirect your career in a way that will allow you to feel good about what you do and serve others by giving them the best of yourself.

**The names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals mentioned in this blog post.

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