Faculty of Medical Sciences Online Learning

Case Study

Enhancing Career Development with an Online MClinRes

Claire Adams is a Specialist Severe Insulin Resistance & Diabetes Nurse and Senior Research Nurse with the National Severe Insulin Resistance Service and Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, based at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.  Here, she describes how her achievement of an online MClinRes has widened her career opportunities.

This summer I completed my HEE/NIHR MClinRes Studentship with Newcastle University and I can say with all honesty that this has been one of the best things I have done for myself.  I enjoyed every single minute. I started thinking about conducting my own research in 2013, following feedback from a Lipodystrophy Patient Support Group Day. Lipodystrophy refers to a group of rare conditions characterised by a generalised or partial lack of body fat and is associated with severe metabolic problems e.g. severe insulin resistance, diabetes and pancreatitis.  Appearance may be affected and some patients report this to be more distressing than the metabolic effects.  People highlighted at this event that they needed psychological support for the effects of the condition on their appearance and this echoed what we had heard in clinical practice.  I knew that my colleagues and others around the world were conducting research into the diagnostic and medical aspects of the condition but no one was studying the morphology or the psychology. 

Following conversations with the Lead Research Nurse at my trust I decided to apply for the NIHR funded MClinRes.   A recommendation from a nursing colleague led me to the programme at Newcastle University and it turned out to be the perfect fit for me.  Not only was I able to conduct the research project of my choice, the programme was also offered online which was essential to me as a busy mum to 4 year old twins.  I needed the flexibility that the online programme could offer.   I was fortunate that the Professor of Clinical Nursing Research at my trust agreed to be my workplace mentor as this provided a valuable face to face contact for me.

I started in September 2014 and completed the programme part-time over 2 years whilst remaining in my current clinical role.  Although I had been working in a research environment since 2003 I was amazed how much there was still to learn.   For me the most important and beneficial part of the programme was the variety in the different assignment tasks that were set and which really prepared me for conducting my own research.

Skills

The skills I learnt as part of the programme assisted me in undertaking my own dissertation project.  I conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with people with lipodystrophy to gain a better understanding of the experiences of the participants.  The study confirmed what we had observed in clinical practice, that lipodystrophy can contribute to a negative body image.   Participants spoke about the impact it had on the way they felt and presented themselves to others, and the relationships around them.  There was a consensus amongst participants that psychological input was needed alongside medical management.   I now hope to get the results published in a peer reviewed journal.   

The results have been used to support a successful application I submitted to the Patients First Programme, awarded by the Foundation of Nursing Studies and the Burdett Trust.  With the support of this award, Changing Faces (a UK charity that supports and represents people who have disfigurements of the face or body from any cause, whether from birth or acquired) will be working with us to innovate a programme of support specially designed for people with Lipodystrophy.   The results of my research will also be used to underpin a doctoral fellowship application.

Confidence

My confidence has grown throughout the course and has been noted by colleagues in my workplace.  I am so much more confident in my own knowledge and skills, and putting myself forward for things.   Within my own workplace I put myself forward to lead and co-ordinate the submission of a big new genetics study as I felt it was a great opportunity to put my new skills into practice.  I have also learnt the enormous value of networking, soon after I started the programme I joined the Cambridge Nurses in Research Group and have met other nurses and allied health care professionals conducting their own research.  I also made great links as a result of my research with Changing Faces and The Centre of Appearance Research at University of West of England both of whom have provided support and who I hope to continue working with in the future.

My long term goal is to be a Clinical Nurse Researcher combining a clinical and research career, just like many of the medical community do.  I hope to be conducting research that will ultimately improve patient care.  Since completing my Masters in Clinical Research I feel like I am a step further to making that happen.   

Pictured: Claire Adams - Online MClinRes Student