Staff celebrate finishing research internship

Posted: 06/08/20

The first cohort of an internship designed to help support staff in developing their research careers has come to an end.

Launched in 2019 and unique to Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), the nine-month internship was available for 10 people.

Applicants were chosen based on their proposal of a project that could make a difference to patient care, the delivery of a service or someone’s career path. They also had to explain how they would spend the £5,000 grant available to each intern.

Once chosen, each intern worked on a personal project to develop their skills and the service they work in to. This also provided the opportunity to network with colleagues as interns were invited to join the Trust’s AHP (Allied Health Professions) Research and Innovation Forum.

Advanced occupational therapy practitioner Lynsay Duke said: “The internship not only enabled me to move my project forward but also got patients involved in developing a service.”

Lynsay’s project involved patients in the upper limb surgical assessment clinic and included educational videos explaining the clinic, surgeries that may be offered and patient aftercare.

The internship has prompted occupational therapist Domna Salonen to apply for a clinical academic pre-doctoral fellowship. “I have gained first-hand experience in managing a research grant and excellent learning opportunities thanks to the internship. It has been a great platform to develop new ways of collaborating and promote a research-active culture,” she said.

“I would definitely recommend the internship to others, particularly non-medical clinicians with research ambitions in their early stages of research development.”

Lynsay and Domna, alongside specialist occupational therapist Diane Bell, have also been involved in publishing an article on the internship and how it has contributed to their learning in OT News.

Lynsay added: “We hoped it will encourage other staff to discuss with their teams about opportunities to carry out smaller projects that can lead to bigger things. The internship has enabled staff to develop ideas, move projects forward and be innovative.”

Diane Bell said: “The internship has been enlightening, providing space for creativity in a very busy and demanding working environment. I feel it has given me the opportunity to explore some of the current challenges in child and adolescent mental health, which has undoubtedly enhanced my knowledge and therapeutic approach.

“I would encourage others to embrace the opportunities that the internship offers, in the areas of professional and service development.”

Julie Wadsworth did her internship in Dance Movement Psychotherapy as an intervention for eating disorders, part of her long-term ambition to study for a PhD in the subject.

She said: “The experience has taught me a lot. It has been challenging but I feel I have a greater breadth of knowledge about my client group which will help with my day-to-day work. The opportunity to draw on the experience of a wide range of clinicians and explore the implementation of strategies through taster workshops has given me invaluable transferrable skills and boosted my confidence in my own abilities as a clinician.”

Dramatherapist Jane Bourne’s Internship meant that she could enrol on a week’s training at a Clinical Trials unit based at the University of Oxford. It enabled her to time out of her usual role to produce a review on ‘Psychosocial Interventions for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities and Mental Health Conditions Living in the Community’, apply for a National Institute for Health Research (NIHRR) doctorate and run two lunches for clinical researchers to learn about a new Patient and Public Involvement group who shared their experiences of a learning disability through a play.

Simon Douglas, Joint Director of Research at CNTW, was delighted with the progress of the internships. “We put these internships in place specifically because we acknowledged the relative difficulty that nurses and AHPs have in carving out time for research at all levels in comparison to other disciplines.

“We hoped that there would be some innovative proposals for developing research careers and we were not disappointed. I have been impressed with the range of projects and their outcomes and we plan to replicate the internships this year although it has been delayed by Covid-19.”