Now is the time for nurses to drive health and social care research

A funding boost from the National Institute for Health and Care Research should encourage nurses and other healthcare professionals to pursue research careers

A nurse sits with an older woman and goes through her patient notes
Picture: iStock

It is a better time than ever for nurses to get involved in research. In August the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) announced funding of £30 million for more healthcare professionals to engage in research.

Historically, this pot of money has been focused on supporting doctors and dentists. Now there is a drive to support nurses alongside other non-medical healthcare professionals in pursuing research careers, yet nurses are still vastly under-represented because not enough of us are applying for funding.

Now is also the time for social care research with the NIHR also launching a £10 million funding programme specifically for social care. Only last year the NIHR included ‘care’ in its name to acknowledge the importance of social care research.

There has been a dearth of research in the sector because most research has been carried out in NHS settings. Of seven priority themes for the NIHR fellowship schemes for 2024-25, dementia and the health needs of older people combined with multimorbidity are two, which aligns with the research I would like to do.

The more you get involved in research, the more connections you make

Despite my love of research, I would never have dreamt that I could become a clinical academic: working clinically as well as in research or academia. As a care home nurse, I had a research question that I felt compelled to find the answer to. Initially I had to invest much of my own time exploring how I was going to do this.

I then applied for a research internship for one day a week that enabled me to develop as a researcher and am now about to start a master’s degree after successfully applying for a fellowship. The more you get involved in research the more connections you make, which means ideas can be shared, projects developed, funding applied for and research undertaken.

Whether you choose a clinical academic pathway or form a collaboration and apply for funding, there are ways to start your research career.

Health research topics are often chosen by university researchers, but it is the workers at the coalface that know the real problems and the key gaps in the literature. We need to step up and take the opportunities available so that our exceptional understanding of issues can be shared to improve outcomes for the older people in our care.

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Further information

NIHR: Nurses and Midwives or email

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