Dr Nicki Barker Reflects on her CLAHRC/CAHPR Fellowship

The CLAHRC/CAHPR fellowship proved to be the great opportunity I had hoped it would be. As with all research related activities, not everything went immediately to plan but all the benefits have come to fruition with time.

I set out with the plan to develop a cohesive research strategy, build a comprehensive network to support my research/career goals and to help organisations and individuals increase the prevalence, visibility and impact of AHP research.  I ended up achieving so much more.

The easiest successes to identify are those that have the most visible outputs. The dedicated time offered by the fellowship enabled me to write a funding application for the development of an accessory medical device which would address the problems we face diagnosing exercise induced laryngeal obstruction in children. The funding bid was collaboration between Sheffield Children’s NHS Trust, Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield. Disappointingly it was unsuccessful at the time but, based on that work, we have since developed the idea further, teamed up with an industrial partner and been successful in gaining funding for the project.

Development of the funding bid made me think carefully about the steps needed to be successful as an allied health professional in medtech developments. I wanted to consolidate what I had learnt and channel my experiences and I did this by writing a guide to med tech development for AHPs. This soon became two guides, the short version which has since been published as part of the CAHPR top tips series and a more detailed version which is soon to be finalised.

A combination of the peace and space of the CLAHRC facilities, and being surrounded by experienced people who are passionate about improving research capacity and capability, inspired me to focus on maximising the opportunities that I had been given. I took the opportunity to make contact and network with other clinical academics and managers in the region and draw on their experiences and expertise. One of the outputs of this process was the drawing together of a formal job description for the role that I play within my NHS Trust; the aim of which was to promote and solidify the clinical academic role in the Trust and gain suitable recognition for the contribution that allied health professionals make to clinical research. The job description was submitted to the appropriate Trust bodies for banding and, for the first time, the role of Principal Clinical Researcher has been recognised by the Trust.

– Dr Nicki Barker, October 2018