During October, we are posting a series of blogs about careers in research as part of the NIHR’s Your Path in Research campaign.

For our first post, we spoke to clinical research practitioners in the newly formed COVID-19 research team.

Clinical research practitioner roles cover both clinical skills, such as conducting patients’ research
appointments and taking blood samples, to data management and governance requirements, such
as talking to trial sponsors and project managers.

Clinical research practitioner Cherry Paice in our Clinical Research FacilityCherry Paice says that this variety is one of her favourite aspects of the job. “I really enjoy interacting with patients and contributing to their care – in research you have a bit more time with patients and can really get to know them over the months or years that they take part in a study. At the same time I get to learn a lot more about the disease speciality and the different treatment pathways, as well as learning some new clinical skills.”

Cherry has a Biomedical Science degree and started her career working with healthy volunteers in a private company.

“I wanted to move into NHS research because, although I was always interested in trials, I wanted to also feel like I’m directly making a difference to patients’ clinical care.”

Clinical Research Practitioner Kathrine HilarioKathrine Hilario took a slightly different route, starting her career in social research and completing a masters in this area. She has since gained clinical skills and completed postgraduate courses that have helped her to work her way up to being a clinical research practitioner. Kathrine is currently working in cancer and rare disease genetics research and on COVID-19 trials.

“I’ve worked my way from being a social researcher into health research. It didn’t happen overnight, but
every day is a learning experience, and every day I get something new from the job. At the moment,
I’m working on COVID-19 studies where support and skills are needed.”

“This is a job where you think about the future and future generations. It is fulfilling to know something that will help benefit patients. You have to be open to learning new skills and learning from others around you.”

Clinical research practitioner Lauren Martinez wearing full PPE as part of her role.Lauren Martinez is also working on the COVID-19 research team, having come into research from a role in a GP practice.

“I was working in a GP practice for six years in an administration role and then joined the Trust seven years ago, also in an administration post. I worked with a consultant in the Trust who was moving on to take lead on a brand new research study. He spoke so positively of this new study and with such great enthusiasm that I read more into it in my spare time. I became very intrigued and eventually applied for a job within the team. I already had lots of NHS experience within the administration side and was able to receive all the training needed for the clinical aspects whilst in post.”

For people interested in a research career, Lauren’s advice is to do your homework and find out as much as you can about the training and roles that are out there.

“We are really lucky in the UK to have such great facilities supporting research in the NHS. I would suggest really understanding the background of research/clinical trials, the positive impact this has on medical care and how advanced we now are with the studies that we are able to run. I would also think about what sort of role to get into as there are many roles within the research umbrella. It would then be a good idea to see what training needs there are, even seeing what kind of research areas would be of interest.”