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Give nursing research stronger clinical foundations, argues nursing professor

Plymouth University professor in clinical nursing told the NET2015 Conference in Cambridge that nurse researchers like herself should be recruited from clinical backgrounds rather than academia

Nurse researchers increasingly need to be recruited from clinical backgrounds to help bridge the gap between front line practice and academia, according to a professor in clinical nursing.

Professor Ruth Endacott.  Photo credit: Tim George
Speaking at the Networking for Education in Healthcare Conference in Cambridge, Ruth Endacott of the University of Plymouth’s Centre for Health and Social Care Innovation said that she wants the world of nursing research to move away from recruiting clinical professors like her from academia, rather than clinical practice.

She told delegates, with at least one third of them from overseas, that the clinical academic framework is 'a mess' and needs to be revised. She said it assumes that all clinical researchers start their careers as a research nurse, adding: ‘As it currently stands it does not suit our purpose.'

She said when it comes to her time to step down from her role, she wants her replacement to be a clinician rather than from an academic background.

‘For our university students who graduate, we want them to go into a clinical role and not just be doing bank shifts at weekends.'

She added: ‘Eventually I hope people like me who are clinical professors will come from clinical practice. But that has not happened in the past.’

She is one of three nurses who are running professor-led clinical schools on the south west peninsula with the aim of creating clinician-academic partnerships, developing evidence-based practice and to optimise opportunities for nursing and midwifery-led research associated with clinical practice. They have four clinical school hubs located within four acute hospital NHS trusts on the peninsula.

One of the clinical schools’ aims is to get 80% of publications and journals to be produced in partnership with clinicians.

Professor Endacott told the conference that NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh’s review into mortality rates at 14 NHS trusts in England gave impetus to the work of nurse researchers. This is because it highlighted that the errors that occurred in the 14 trusts were as a result of the organisations not accessing clinical or academic expertise, and because they were not aligned with what was going on in best practice, she said.

She wants to foster stronger relationships with nurses who work in front line practice to ensure research conducted by academics and researchers is relevant for addressing the problems they encounter at work and in delivering effective patient care. She said researchers need to engage with clinicians to find out about their challenges in practice and turn their clinical questions into areas of exploration for research.

‘One of the challenges for us is that if our ideas come through the university system, they are not necessarily going to work in clinical practice,’ she said.

‘The danger is that we will be seen as having ivory tower ideas about what we think needs to change or what kind of study we need to do.’

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