Prof Christi Deaton, GM CLRN Cardiovascular Theme lead, shares her experiences and achievements to reach the role.
“Evidence-based practice is a professional responsibility for all clinicians and we owe it to our patients to practice according to the best evidence that we have. Research activities, such as reading one paper, leading a journal club, reviewing evidence for practice, designing and conducting a study, collecting and analysing data, can be personally satisfying and challenging. It can add another dimension to your work, and potentially lead to other opportunities, regardless of your role.
"As a nurse, midwife or allied health professional, becoming involved in research can start with reading papers and questioning practice and the evidence base for what you're doing. Across all Trusts investigators and research nurses are usually keen to talk about the studies they’re currently carrying out. If you are serious about research, then education is the best option, especially the MRes, MPhil and PhD programmes.
“As Professor of Nursing at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CMFT), I work with nursing, midwifery and allied professional staff to build research capacity and capability.
“My research activities include everything from reading and discussing a specific study to building a programme of research that is externally funded. At CMFT we have a nursing administration that really values research and wants nurses, midwives and allied health professionals to contribute to the research mission of the Trust. We want to develop a 'research culture', where practice is questioned and evidence sought for best practice, and where research activities are seen as an integral part of practice, not as something additional.
“Like many nurses I spent many years in clinical practice before turning to a research career, but I was always interested in research. When I was studying, I wanted to be a scientist, although at that time I was particularly inspired by Jane Goodall and the work she did studying chimpanzees. I think that curiosity and the desire to understand 'why' and 'how' has stayed with me throughout my nursing career and that's what led me to research. I like asking questions and thinking about what we know and don't know, and then developing a study to hopefully provide some answers while stimulating other questions.
“As you won’t be able to tell from this blog, but you would be able to tell if you heard me, I am an American and the educational system is different there. I started my career as a registered nurse after a two-year associate degree programme and didn't go back for my baccalaureate degree until seven years later. I worked several years in a very small – 50 bed – rural hospital, where the nurses had to take on a lot of responsibility because there was no one else around. You couldn't specialise, but it was the cardiac patients that had the biggest impact on me. I started practice before thrombolytic therapy so there was little that we could do when patients had a myocardial infarction (MI) except to try and reduce myocardial oxygen consumption and increase collateral flow. I remember our excitement (and some scepticism) when a cardiologist from the nearest tertiary centre came to talk to us about transferring patients for streptokinase infusion into the coronary artery. I decided that I wanted to work somewhere that was at the cutting edge of practice and to continue my education. So I moved to Atlanta and began work in the coronary intensive care unit of a university-affiliated hospital.
“We were involved in the early Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) trials, and a number of other clinical studies. I went back to university for a baccalaureate degree and then a Master's degree. I enjoyed my research courses and knew that I wanted to combine research with practice.
“After that, I led a group reviewing the evidence for best practice for hemodynamic monitoring as we had different protocols and practices in each ICU. The use of research (much of it done by nurses) to improve our practice was very satisfying. My first research grant with some nursing colleagues was $250 (about £125); we conducted a randomised study on teaching a relaxation technique to patients prior to cardiac catheterisation. We found that patients randomised to relaxation-therapy received less sedation in the laboratory after controlling for weight.
“I continued to work clinically when I went back for my PhD and a year after I finished I took a post as the coordinator of outcomes research for the University cardiac service. Two years later I joined the faculty at the School of Nursing at the University. I have been lucky to have some wonderful and very generous research mentors, and to work with inter-disciplinary groups.
“I came to Manchester as a senior research fellow in 2003, and became Professor of Nursing about nine months later. To become a professor you need to develop a programme of scholarly work demonstrated by research and publications. Having mentors and good people to work with is essential!
“I’ll be honest, besides its reputation for wet weather, I didn't know much about Manchester until I moved here, but it is a vibrant city that has changed greatly from its industrial beginning. It's also surrounded by some of the most beautiful areas in the UK. I was attracted to CMFT for its outstanding research environment and high quality care and I already knew many people here when I took the position, and thought that I could continue to build on my collaboration with clinicians at CMFT. It's also exciting that nursing and allied professional research is so well supported by the nursing administration and the Biomedical Research Centre.
“As a researcher, you are always aware of the tension between the need to deliver the clinical service and the time required for research activities: that's a difficulty everyone struggles with. There are no easy answers but should always find time to do the activities that we value. If we value research, then we have to make the commitment to make time, while balancing the needs of the clinical service. It does require some dedicated or protected time for research and the commitment to use that time, rather than catching up on something else. There are always demands on time and too many things that need to be done. Research has to be a priority during non-clinical time. It also requires support from the environment and it helps to have a community or network of others who are also struggling with the same issues. Research is part of practice after all, and there should be a strong relationship between practice and research.”