Academic Career Pathways
Christine Norton PhD MA RN
Nurse Consultant (Bowel Control) St Mark’s
Hospital, Harrow
Professor of Clinical Nursing Innovation &
Associate Director of Nursing
Bucks New University
& Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
The only certainty is change
• Patients (demographics, expectations)
• NHS (technology, community focus, organisation
of care)
• Nursing (all graduate, support workers, new
• Research (focus, funding, governance)
What will your ideal job look like in:
–1 year
–5 years
–10 years
–20 years
–Is it possible to plan for this?
The issues
• Much research has only a medical focus
• Many important questions not answered by
• Many nurse academics are not clinical (focus on
• Lack of career structure and progression for
research nurses
• Would career progress for research nurses
attract and retain more + enable genuine
multidisciplinary research?
Recommendations (Finch 2007)
100 MRes places (35 funded 2009)
50 PhD Fellowships (5 N&M funded 2009)
20 postdoc places (6 N&M funded 2009)
10 Senior clinical academic fellowships
(1st round 2010)
• Lack of applicants + lack of high quality
Clinical Academic Careers
• Aim to have clinically active nurses also having a
research role
• NIHR: huge new funding for research nurses
• But not many have carved out own research
Why education?
• Safeguard patient
– Knowledge & competencies
• Credibility of nurses
– Equal member of multidisciplinary team
• Professional and personal development
– Role satisfaction
– Promotion and pay??
– Enabled to develop nursing service
– Become a prescriber
– Enabled to conduct nursing research
Not all Masters are the same
Accumulate credits from modules (180)
Some generic (advanced practice)
Some clinically focused (cancer nursing)
Some multidisciplinary
MSc vs. MRes
Thesis may not allow you to do original research
1 year full time: typically 2-3 years part time
(£2k pa)
• Choose carefully and ask lots of questions
before you sign up
Clinical nurses doing research
for MSc thesis - excited
• Ward sister: RCT gum chewing after surgery
• Nurse endoscopist: RCT Entonox for
• Ward sister: marshmallows to firm ileostomy
• CNS: H Pylori gastric biopsies for IDA
• CNS: introduce enhanced recovery
• CNS: info giving improved bowel prep for
• Need to be organised to achieve
Should PhD be the target?
3 years full time; 4-6 years part time
Original contribution to knowledge
1-2 supervisors, 1 project
Register with a University
Thesis 75-100,000 words + viva
Nursing Research – PhD Students
Maureen Coggrave – spinal bowel management
Sue Woodward – reflexology for constipation
Sarah Collings – experience of incontinence
Maggie Vance – nurse led screening for bowel Ca
Nikki Cotterill – questionnaire for incontinence
Denise Hibberts – needs of Muslim women with a
• Lesley Dibley – stigma in inflammatory bowel
Imperial College Healthcare NHS
Trust – Professor of Nursing 2010
• Director of Nursing Janice Sigsworth: 1st job:
work out strategy for CAC in AHSC
• (+ for EBP)
• Where to start?
• 25% nurses have BSc – target 50%
• 2.3% have MSc – target 10%
• 3 have PhD’s – target 0.5% (20+)
Our AHSC model: tripartite mission
Career structure
– nurses in an AHSC
• BSc prepared students (+ MSc route)
– with “research enhanced” preparation
– opportunity for placement in CTU (10 units)
• New staff orientation: compulsory
(online) research awareness skills (+
• PhD/Preceptorship programme
• Research nurses: development
Research as a career option
• 3rd year student placements
• Research nurse posts – often the opportunity
is missed – use to develop skills and
ambitions – career pathway
• Build research into clinical job plans
Evidence-based practice (effectiveness)
Issues for Research Nurses
Employer: NHS or University?
Line manager and nursing reporting line?
Who is responsible for mandatory training & CPD (&
Career pathway? Short term contracts
Skills development, study leave
Isolation; possibilities for undue pressure
Not a “career”
RCN competencies a start
Develop research from clinical
questions – grants
• RfPB: £248k, radiation proctitis
• Imperial Charity: £436k, improving patient
• Crohn’s & Colitis UK: £109k: FI in IBD
• Big Lottery: £481k: fatigue in IBD
• Coloplast Ltd: £10k: pilot anal irrigation
• NIHR: £99k, development of constipation
Why try for academic progression?
Others will seldom take the initiative
It is hard work, but rewarding
Probably the only way we are going to
develop genuine multidisciplinary research
and enhance patient outcomes
• Route to a self-confident research active