This month, the #yourpathinresearch campaign is highlighting the range of benefits for clinical staff of getting into research. We’re taking a look at some of the many different routes our staff have taken into research, and their top tips for clinical staff wanting to know more.

Dr Rebecca D’Cruz is now an NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow, having moved into research through our BRC’s Clinical Training Fellowship scheme. We sat down with her to find out about her journey.

Clinical Training Fellow Dr Rebecca D'Cruz

What made you want to get into research?

I became interested in COPD and ventilation as a junior doctor, and had an inspiring and supportive consultant who encouraged me to undertake small projects on these topics. Halfway through my respiratory training, I needed a break from my frenetic clinical workload and wanted to develop my specialist interests.

How did you go about getting involved?

I emailed several eminent clinicians and was very surprised when they replied and were keen to meet and discuss their projects. I met Professor Hart and Dr Murphy who were developing a clinical project that matched my interests. They recommended the NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ BRC Clinical Training Fellowship to support me doing this research, so I put myself forward and was fortunate enough to be offered one.

What did the Fellowship provide for you?

The Fellowship supported my pilot study and gave me the time and headspace to learn about respiratory physiology relevant to both my research and clinical practice. I also had the opportunity to discuss these challenging concepts with the expert clinical academics I worked with.

The Fellowship was also invaluable in supporting the next step in my research path, my Doctoral Research Fellowship application – the BRC’s Patient and Public Involvement group helped me write my lay summary and the BRC organised a mock interview.

What are you doing now?

I’m in my second year of a NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship. I’m investigating whether a medical device called Nasal High-Flow can be used in COPD patients’ homes when they are recovering from a hospital admission, and whether it can improve their breathing symptoms. After my Fellowship finishes, I will return to my clinical training as a respiratory and medical registrar.

What is your advice for people who aren’t sure about getting involved?

I’d say you don’t need to commit to a formal research endeavour like an MD or PhD straight away.  I’d suggest contacting researchers and spending time with them. I’d also recommend the Clinical Training Fellowship, as it’s one year of hands on experience, then you can decide whether to pursue research.

What are your top tips for people wanting to get into research?

I would say contact as many experts in your field as possible. You’ll be surprised how willing they are to meet and talk to you about their research. Also take time to identify a team that can support and nurture you. There are highs and lows in research, so you want to find supervisors and a team that match your interests and personality and who support and motivate you when you’re faced with challenges.

What have you gained from being involved in research?

A completely new set of skills, both scientific, clinical and personal. I have a better understanding of trials and statistics, which helps me interpret journal articles and consider how they apply to clinical practice. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from experts on presenting specialist information in a clear and engaging way, and improve my confidence in speaking to large, multidisciplinary audiences.  And by working on the Lane Fox Respiratory Unit, I’m developing a range of specialist clinical skills.

I also continue to be thoroughly humbled by patients’ willingness to be involved in research. Despite them being very unwell when I approach them to discuss the study, I’ve been told countless times “whatever I can do to help others” and “without research how are we going to learn?” I think that all of these experiences are making me a better clinician and will put me in a stronger position to deliver high quality care for my patients when I go back into clinical practice.