My job

Making a difference through research

JILL MABEN OBE is professor of nursing research at King’s College London (KCL). Until recently she was director of the National Nursing Research Unit (NNRU) at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at KCL. In June the unit moved to the Healthcare Organisation Workforce and Quality research group. Professor Maben, who is primarily a qualitative researcher, is recognised for conducting case studies and in-depth, observational research. She examines workforce, the work environment and the impact on patient care. She recently completed a national research study on single rooms in hospitals. She was named as one of Health Service Journal’s ‘Top 100 leaders’ in 2013 and was on HSJ’s first list of ‘Most inspirational women in healthcare’.
Making a difference through research

JILL MABEN OBE is professor of nursing research at Kings College London (KCL). Until recently she was director of the National Nursing Research Unit (NNRU) at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at KCL. In June the unit moved to the Healthcare Organisation Workforce and Quality research group. Professor Maben, who is primarily a qualitative researcher, is recognised for conducting case studies and in-depth, observational research. She examines workforce, the work environment and the impact on patient care. She recently completed a national research study on single rooms in hospitals. She was named as one of Health Service Journals Top 100 leaders in 2013 and was on HSJs first list of Most inspirational women in healthcare.

How did you become interested in research?

I was curious by nature and influenced by my fathers role as a police detective and his curiosity and attention to detail.

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JILL MABEN OBE is professor of nursing research at King’s College London (KCL). Until recently she was director of the National Nursing Research Unit (NNRU) at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at KCL. In June the unit moved to the Healthcare Organisation Workforce and Quality research group. Professor Maben, who is primarily a qualitative researcher, is recognised for conducting case studies and in-depth, observational research. She examines workforce, the work environment and the impact on patient care. She recently completed a national research study on single rooms in hospitals. She was named as one of Health Service Journal’s ‘Top 100 leaders’ in 2013 and was on HSJ’s first list of ‘Most inspirational women in healthcare’.

How did you become interested in research?

I was curious by nature and influenced by my father’s role as a police detective and his curiosity and attention to detail. With an idea of ‘questioning the world’, I started in nursing and would always ask why things happen.

I trained at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. After a series of difficult incidents in practice with no support, I left nursing but continued studying using nursing to support me. I did a BA in history at University College London. I found a more rewarding nursing experience in Australia. On my return to the UK I started a research assistant job, and went on to do a research intensive MSc in nursing at KCL. I undertook a PhD at the University of Southampton, conducting a longitudinal study on the challenges facing newly qualified nurses trying to maintain ideals and standards of professional practice.

Following a post-doctoral fellowship at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, I joined the NNRU as a senior research fellow and deputy director, becoming director in 2011. I have worked with some excellent colleagues and have developed my work on the nursing workforce, demonstrating links between staff wellbeing and patient experiences of care. I am passionate about creating positive practice environments for NHS staff and supporting them in their work caring for patients.

Who has been most influential in your career?

The most influential nurse researchers have been Dame Jill Macleod-Clark, Anne-Marie Rafferty and Sue Latter. My first research assistant post at KCL was with Jill and Sue, and Jill was my mentor and manager. Many ward sisters were great role models too.

What has been your most influential research?

One of my oldest pieces ‘Health promotion: a concept analysis’ (Maben and Macleod Clark 1995) is significant because it continues to be used today by many nurses and has been cited many times. My most significant published piece of work is ‘Poppets and parcels’: the links between staff experience of work and acutely ill older people’s experience of hospital care (Maben et al 2012). It brought recognition in the nursing world and was circulated to the chairs of all NHS trust boards.

What are the current research challenges?

Funding is a challenge and persistence is essential. It is hard to maintain a clinical career alongside an academic one, which is why clinical academic careers in nursing are so exciting. Nursing research is important, but it must be published and disseminated to influence policy. Dissemination is also important and social media plays an increasing role, engaging with other researchers and research consumers.

What has given you most satisfaction?

My biggest achievement is to have completed my PhD while having two children. It was hard at times and solitary. I had my daughter during my PhD, and I also have a son with autism and a learning disability. .

Another satisfying moment was when I was presented with an OBE last October by the Princess Royal. She discussed some research on 100% single hospital bedrooms at Pembury hospital in Kent (Maben et al 2015) that I had recently completed. I was honoured for services to nursing and health care. As a nurse researcher, it was important in terms of the work we do as nurses and illustrates the importance of continuing to develop a good evidence base for our work.

What are you working on now?

My latest projects include two studies. The first is developing training for health care assistants to improve relational care for older people. I am also working on evaluating Schwartz Rounds: one-hour reflective meetings for all staff to think about the social, emotional and ethical challenges of caring for patients that are taking place in 120 trusts across the UK.

What tips would you give a novice researcher?

Be passionate about research and persistent when gathering data. It can be challenging to collect data in busy healthcare environments. The study is a priority to you, but not to staff and patients. Get yourself a good mentor and support.

What is the future for nursing research?

Nursing is an incredible profession and to be able to do research is a privilege. I am passionate about our profession, and want to develop nurse researchers so that we can continue to have a growing evidence base for professional practice and nursing policy. I see some excellent nurses gaining degrees: they are tomorrow’s professors and I am sure the profession is safe in their hands.

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