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Mental health nursing research unit offers nurses chance to develop skills and knowledge

New dedicated unit can support nurses in becoming more active in clinical research

New dedicated unit can support nurses in becoming more active in clinical research

Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trusts new initiative aims to support mental health nurses to become more actively involved in clinical research.

In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Manchester, we have established a dedicated mental health nursing research unit, and this unit plans to conduct research relevant to mental health nursing practice.

Support in developing additional research skills and knowledge

It also seeks to support nurses working in the trust who wish to develop additional research skills and knowledge, as well as helping them to engage critically with research relevant to their clinical practice.

The trust already has a

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New dedicated unit can support nurses in becoming more active in clinical research

Woman choosing books out of a research library
Picture: iStock

Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust’s new initiative aims to support mental health nurses to become more actively involved in clinical research.

In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Manchester, we have established a dedicated mental health nursing research unit, and this unit plans to conduct research relevant to mental health nursing practice.

Support in developing additional research skills and knowledge

It also seeks to support nurses working in the trust who wish to develop additional research skills and knowledge, as well as helping them to engage critically with research relevant to their clinical practice.

The trust already has a strong track record of conducting clinical research.

Why specific support for mental health nursing research?

There are several reasons why we considered it necessary to establish a unit that specifically supports mental health nursing research.

Nurses constitute the largest professional group working in NHS mental health services, and nursing roles that incorporate research activity are becoming increasingly common.

However, nursing remains significantly under-represented in terms of levels of research activity compared with other healthcare professions.

Nurses are less likely to be involved in conducting research, and many nurses say they lack confidence when it comes to critically appraising the quality of research evidence.

Unique perspective on how we understand health and well-being

Mental health nurses work in a diverse range of clinical settings and roles that are distinct from those of colleagues from other professional backgrounds.

As a result, nurses bring their own unique perspective to subjects such as how we understand health and well-being, the challenges and barriers encountered when delivering healthcare interventions, and innovative ways of working.

It is important that the perspectives of these nurses are reflected in healthcare literature.

When mental health nurses are supported appropriately they are able to generate clinically relevant research questions arising from their practice, and design and conduct robust programmes of research to answer those questions effectively.

Producing research that is grounded in the clinical and professional experiences of mental health nurses will contribute to improved outcomes for patients and their families who are accessing healthcare.

In addition to being beneficial for patients and their families, supporting nurses to conduct research relevant to their practice will also advance the profession.

Priorities of the dedicated mental health nursing research unit

  1. To establish a strong programme of public and patient involvement. Our ambition is for patients to be involved in all stages of the research process, from establishing our research priorities to designing and conducting programmes of research, as well as the dissemination of research findings
  2. To support the development of future clinical-academic nurses, we have created opportunities for mental health nurses to contribute to the research activities of the research unit. For example, we have funding to release one mental health nurse from clinical duties for a proportion of their time to allow them to gain additional research experience. This experience may include applying for research funding, writing an academic paper or conducting a small-scale research project. It is increasingly recognised that nursing roles that combine clinical and research responsibilities bring reciprocal benefits in terms of quality of care and the relevance of clinical research
  3. To develop the research skills and knowledge of the trust’s nursing workforce through a series of training events and conferences
  4. To become self-sustaining through securing research funding. This will enable us to conduct high-quality research that is relevant to the practice of mental health nursing

Fantastic opportunity to develop the mental health nursing profession

A virtual launch event for the research unit was held in July 2020, and we were pleased to see the level of engagement from nurses in our trust and the wider mental health nursing community.

Informed by the helpful feedback we received from those attending, we are already planning ways to build on the success of this event and strengthen links with clinical colleagues.

The research unit represents a fantastic opportunity to support mental health nursing in developing as a profession and, most importantly, to produce research that brings tangible benefits to those accessing mental healthcare.


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