Career advice

Take the lead in your workplace and get involved in research

Effective leadership has never been more important in nursing, and world-leading research by nurses is already transforming lives, says Council of Deans of Health director Elisabeth Jelfs.

Effective leadership has never been more important in nursing, and world-leading research by nurses is already transforming lives, says Council of Deans of Health director Elisabeth Jelfs


Nurses are active researchers in areas as diverse as wound care, end of life care, non-medical
prescribing and recovery in mental health. Picture: iStock

Trends in health and social care are changing how care is delivered. This is creating new roles for nurses, who are needed to supervise and coordinate work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, care homes and the community. 

With more advanced care being delivered in people’s homes, the partnership between healthcare professionals, patients and their carers is increasingly important. 

Every nurse and healthcare professional has a role in leading the delivery of high-quality care and ensuring patient safety. Leadership is core to the professional standards of practice and behaviour in the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s code and pre-registration standards, and is expected to increase in importance. 

Experiential research 

The pressures on health and social care services make leadership roles more essential than ever, with nurses often helping service users navigate the healthcare system by knitting together sometimes fragmented services. 

There are several national leadership initiatives for nurses at all levels, including the RCN’s clinical and political leadership programmes and those offered by the NHS Leadership Academy. Take every opportunity to develop your leadership skills, even if you think senior management is not the right pathway for you now. 

One of the ways of ensuring patient care is based on the best available evidence is for nurses to be involved in, and to lead, research that is driven by patients’ experiences.

A UK-wide exercise assessing research across all academic disciplines, the Research Excellence Framework, has shown that world-leading research by nurses is already transforming lives. Nurses are active researchers in areas as diverse as wound care, end of life care, non-medical prescribing and recovery in mental health.

Opportunities ahead 

As well as those who work as full-time researchers, there is a need for people who work in dual clinical and academic roles. These academics apply research to clinical situations and also use their experience to generate new research questions. Considering the size of the profession, there are still relatively few nurse researchers, and there are many opportunities to grow and develop this work.

There are a number of initiatives that support nurses who are thinking of research as a career, including the Integrated Clinical Academic Programme from Health Education England and the National Institute for Health Research. In Scotland and Wales, there are opportunities for doctoral and post-doctoral students supported by NHS Education for Scotland’s research training scheme and the Research Capacity Building Collaboration Wales.

Nursing has proved itself over the years to be an adaptable profession, embracing new roles and challenges, often in the context of stretched resources and political pressures. None of these pressures are likely to disappear, but you can have confidence that there are educational opportunities that will enable you to meet the challenges ahead.


About the author 

 

 

 

Elisabeth Jelfs is director of the Council of Deans of Health

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