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Pioneering course sees graduates combine research and front-line nursing

A new academic course is hoping to increase nurse-led research, improve front-line practice and reduce staff burnout.
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A new academic course is hoping to increase nurse-led research, improve front-line practice and reduce staff burnout.

The University of Lincoln retained three of its most promising nursing graduates for one day a week after they completed their undergraduate degrees last year.

Known as clinical academic fellows, Milly Johnson, Stacey Phillips and Shona Maclean spend 30 hours a week in a front-line nursing role, and seven and a half hours at university, conducting research work.

The 12-month programme, which can count towards a Master of Arts degree , is led by Ros Kane and Ian McGonagle from the Mental Health, Health and Social Care research group in the School of Health and Social Care at Lincoln.

The aim of the programme is to increase nurse-led research,

A new academic course is hoping to increase nurse-led research, improve front-line practice and reduce staff burnout.


University of Lincoln Clinical Academic Fellows and registered nurses 
Milly Johnson, Stacey Phillips and Shona Maclean.

The University of Lincoln retained three of its most promising nursing graduates for one day a week after they completed their undergraduate degrees last year. 

Known as clinical academic fellows, Milly Johnson, Stacey Phillips and Shona Maclean spend 30 hours a week in a front-line nursing role, and seven and a half hours at university, conducting research work.

The 12-month programme, which can count towards a Master of Arts degree, is led by Ros Kane and Ian McGonagle from the Mental Health, Health and Social Care research group in the School of Health and Social Care at Lincoln.

The aim of the programme is to increase nurse-led research, improve front-line practice and reduce staff burnout.

Research focus

Dr McGonagle told Nursing Standard the idea for the course had come about from conversations with university alumni about the realities of front-line nursing. 'Some felt chewed up and spat out by the NHS,' he said.

Nursing leaders have long called for front-line staff to be given more research opportunities. In 2012, NHS England set out guidance in for developing nurse-led research, but much of the focus was on nurses already in practice.

In contrast, the University of Lincoln scheme, which will be extended to five graduates next year, is aimed at focusing nurses on research from the very outset of their career.

Dr Kane said: 'The idea is that this will start to involve them in projects that they can hopefully continue to build on after the secondment year. It also gives them exposure to transferable skills, such as writing for publication and peer reviewing for academic journals.'

Staying motivated

The fellows say the scheme also makes them feel more confident to challenge poor practice or suggesting ways to improve.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust adult nurse Ms Maclean said: 'The hope is with our input, we can innovate the workforce and improve practice and care, by being positive role models.'

Doctors often continue their studies after university, and Ms Maclean said opportunities for nurses to do the same were 'a long time coming'.

Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust mental health nurse Ms Johnson said the scheme was beneficial in keeping young nurses engaged, happy and refreshed.

'It's part of our generation to move around. Whether it be going travelling after university or as a nurse having the opportunity to move arond, it helps keep you motivated.'


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