My job

'Children have different health needs - invest in research now and save money later on'

Associate professor in children and young people's nursing, Linda Milnes on why obtaining funding to elevate research can be challenging, and how her three PhD students are continuing to inspire her. 

Linda Milnes is associate professor in children and young people’s nursing at the school of healthcare, University of Leeds. Dr Milnes wants greater funding to promote research in the field, and discusses why three PhD students continue to motivate and inspire her.  

Why did you become a children’s nurse?

I was caring for an eight-year-old girl with cancer while doing my general training and this secured my ambition to be a children’s nurse. At the time, open visiting hours were not an option and I remember spending many hours comforting her, talking and listening to her. I remember thinking how lonely she must have felt and that listening, reassuring and enabling children to talk about how they were feeling was essential to the role of the nurse.

It was for this reason – the connection and role as an advocate to support children and young people (CYP) that I became a children’s nurse. 

Where did you train?

I trained as a general nurse at Walsgrave Hospital (now University Hospital Coventry) and two years after qualifying, did my post-registration children’s nursing at North Manchester GeneralHospital and Booth Hall Children’s Hospital (now Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital).

What is your current job?

My research focus is on the self-care and support and experiences of CYP with long-term conditions and their families. Other roles include co-chair of the Research at Leeds Partnership group – a partnership between the child and family strand of a research group in the School of Healthcare and Leeds Children’s Hospital that aims to build capacity regarding non-medical led research. I also chair the RCN Research in Child Health National Forum.

Where have you worked previously?

I worked on the neuro-intensive care unit in Walsgrave Hospital for two years and later as a children’s nurse at Booth Hall Children’s Hospital on high dependency units, and the respiratory ward before becoming a research nurse. This role helped me make connections at the University of Manchester, where I became a research associate and completed my master of philosophy, and where I commenced as a lecturer in children’s nursing.

I completed my PhD full-time, supported by a National Institute for Health Research doctoral fellowship. I have worked at University of Leeds since 2015.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

My involvement and interest in research means I still work with CYP and families.

What is the greatest challenge?

Securing funding to do the research that could make the difference to CYP and their families. Obtaining funding can be competitive, but is essential to advancing research in this area.

What could you change if you could?

I would ring fence a proportion of applied health research funding to focus on research to improve the health care of CYP. CYP have different needs and are the adults of the future – invest now and save money later on.

What qualities do you think a good children’s nurse should possess?

Good communication and interpersonal skills are essential – being able to build therapeutic relationships with families and be an advocate for child and family-centred care.

What inspires you?

I co-supervise three PhD students who are all leading on projects related to long-term conditions in childhood. Their passion for working in partnership with CYP and families to understand their experiences and preferences for care and developing interventions to improve practice is contagious.

What achievement are you proudest of?

Obtaining a fellowship and completing my PhD in nursing – not bad for someone with no A levels or a degree.

What advice would you give a newly qualified children’s nurse?

Remember that research is the foundation of best practice – keep up to date with the latest nurse-led/multidisciplinary research and be aware of healthcare experiences of CYP. If you have an idea for research then talk to your manager about the best path to follow, or contact the children’s nursing team at your local university.

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