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Occupational Therapist, Wigan Later Life and Memory Service, North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Since qualifying as an occupational therapist in 2007 I have had an interest in research. The problem was that I didn’t know what to do with that interest; I would put my hand up for any opportunity that seemed a bit ‘research-y’, but that was as far as it went. By 2016 I was settled in a role and a team that I loved, but was starting to feel that something was missing. One evening I spotted an advert for a research internship with CLAHRC Greater Manchester and little did I know where this would lead.
The six-month internship required me to carry out a small project and gave me protected time to do this and any other activities that would help me get to know more about research. Whilst the project was an important part of the internship, for me it was more valuable to be given the opportunity to have the time to explore and reflect on becoming a researcher. Not that I felt anything like a researcher at the start of the internship.
I used some of the time to attend workshops run by the NIHR and local CLAHRCs (even though I work in Wigan, the Trust is under the umbrella of CLAHRC North West Coast, but more on that later). At these workshops I would see clinicians who looked a bit like me, who were doing research and gradually the concept of me being a researcher started to come into focus. I discovered that I was interested in public involvement work, found implementation science worryingly fascinating and slowly began to remember what the letters in CLAHRC stand for. Every opportunity I was given either sparked a ‘lightbulb-moment’ or connected to something else that I wanted to do (a journey that I would eventually recount through the medium of textile collage at a workshop run by R&D NW).
What have I achieved?
Leap forward to 2019 and I have completed an evaluation of our service’s provision of young onset dementia care with CLAHRC North West Coast and am heading into the final six months of a MClin Res at the University of Manchester through the previous version of the NIHR clinical academic pathway. These have given me the chance to run steering groups, carry out PPI work, present to senior Trust and local government managers, work with Dementia United, learn how to write a good poster presentation, take a poster presentation to the UK Dementia Congress (and not leave it on the train), contribute to a peer-reviewed journal article, feel fearless (well nearly) going into an ethics committee meeting, attend the NIHR Academy Integrated Clinical Academic Pathway conference, be shortlisted for a North West Coast Research and Innovation award and, most importantly of all, start influencing changes that will help the people living with dementia and their families who use our service.
None of this would have been possible without the internship with CLAHRC GM that let me discover that not only was I interested in research, but it was possible that I could be a researcher.
More about my internship can be found here on the CLAHRC GM Website.
Date Published: 21/02/2019