Research is important. There is no two ways about it. Research underpins everything that we do and why we do it as nurses. It is a driver for innovation and can lead to higher standards of patient care and safety. Although we are taught some theory behind research and many of us carry out some kind of dissertation as a part of our degree, it’s not the same as actually experiencing research first hand. It is currently unknown how many research establishments in the UK are offering research placements, however I was fortunate enough to secure two.
As a part of my nursing training I have been on two very different research placements. My first one was my elective placement on PIC research, which is really where my passion was sparked. I was able to work alongside my mentor and a consultant to take ownership of a project over the 4 weeks there; it was not very “clinical” in carrying out the skills, although you needed comprehensive knowledge of clinical skills to be able to observe other people in their practice. This gave me so much confidence in my skills as a nurse. My second placement was my penultimate placement before I qualify as a registered nurse. This placement was slightly different as it was in the clinical research facility and therefore the projects are already set up and in place. This placement was more clinical as it frequently involved drug administration to the children.
Lots of other students that I have spoken to about having placements in research have thought that the placement must be slow paced, boring, repetitive and not working or learning the skills of a “real” nurse. This could not be further from the truth. On my clinical research facility placement, I had the opportunity to witness some of the rarest conditions in children I have ever come across. This was a fantastic learning experience; it gave me the chance to learn more about these complex conditions which I usually wouldn’t have the opportunity to come across otherwise. Admittedly, the research placements I have been on have been less physically active, we have a 6 bed unit and this isn’t always full every day. However, academically it is very stimulating; there is never a slow moment or two days which are the same. The nurses are highly skilled within research as there are requirements which they must learn for protocols, for example, many of the nurses in this team are phlebotomy and cannulation trained.
One study carried out around nursing students whom completed research placements showed that there was an increased desire for undergraduate nurses to move into research upon qualifying.
Research also opened many doors for me. Due to my elective placement, I was then invited to help write and present the paper for an international reference conference held by the RCN which my university are funding me to attend. An opportunity I would not have been presented with otherwise. I now have a strong link with my mentor from that placement which opens the opportunity to broach more research in the future.
I have had difficult placements in the past, like most students, however I did enjoy the wards. In research you are made to feel like a part of the team, not that you aren’t treated with your supernumerary rights, but you feel valued in your work and contribution. I think that all of these positive experiences that research has bought to me has allowed me to find my “niche” in nursing.
By Lucy Mason