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Health & Social Care Research Across North East & North Cumbria.

Vicki’s Research Story

Vicki’s Research Story

Vicki Hetherington says...

"Being involved in research that directly improves patient care, experiences and treatment options leads to huge job satisfaction."

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How did you get started in research/what inspired you?

My journey into clinical research didn’t follow the usual pattern, I actually had held a research post prior to becoming a physio. I had some research experience from completing my undergraduate degree and from my first post graduate job working as a research assistant. I then went on to become a qualified physiotherapist but missed being immersed in the research field so chose to go back into research on a full time basis.

What do you enjoy about research?

My role as a clinical trials officer, specialising in dementia and Parkinson’s disease research, is diverse and ever-changing – which means I frequently face new challenges and continuous learning opportunities. My responsibilities within each study vary and the types of studies I support vary too – meaning I’m never ‘stuck in a rut’ doing the same things day in and day out. The patient and carer contact is definitely my favourite part of the job, building rapports with families that perhaps isn’t as easy to achieve in routine clinical practice due to clinical pressures and usual rapid discharge (some of our studies are longitudinal meaning we are involved in the patient and carers journey sometimes for many years). Above all, being involved in research that directly improves patient care, experiences and treatment options leads to huge job satisfaction; I may be a very small cog in the bigger machine, but I believe my role helps to make a positive difference to people diagnosed with life-changing conditions.

What training and support have you found most valuable in your career?

I received support and guidance from research active physiotherapists and other medical colleagues, who are leaders within their field. This was instrumental in my choice to carve a career in clinical research. Seeing what they achieved and the differences they made to patients’ lives was the only steer I needed to feel confident I had made the right choice. In terms of training, I have completed structured courses on research methods, approval processes and governance. I have also attended various training courses on the sub-types of dementia and Parkinson’s disease and the assessments/scales used to measure symptoms and severity. ‘On the job’ training is continuous and I regularly feel I have added to my knowledge base by working with my brilliant NHS colleagues. This formal and informal training has led to me feeling that I am a competent researcher, I’m secure in my knowledge/understanding of dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and has ensured continued learning and professional development.

Which people/organisations did you get in touch with to help you?

Northumbria University physiotherapy lecturers/researchers initially provided the guidance I needed to venture into research. Following this I contacted the NIHR (specifically the North East DeNDRoN Research Network as it was at the time) to request further information on the role of clinical trials officer. Once established in research I have contacted the Health Research Authority and colleagues in research and development (both in my own trust and neighbouring NHS trusts) for specific queries along the way. I continue to receive invaluable peer-support from my research and clinical colleagues.

Vicki Hetherington's top 3 tips

If you work within the NHS, contact your trust's research and development department for advice on the best way to get involved.

Contact your Local Clinical Research Network office to see what support is available, as there may be funding streams or educational provisions that can aid your research involvement.

I continue to receive invaluable peer-support from my research and clinical colleagues.

Connect with Vicki Hetherington

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