Advice for Novice Researchers: The #WishIdKnown chat

capture-1

For May 2019’s MedRadJClub chat we reached out to radiographer researchers, clinician scientists, academics and clinical academics and asked them – what do you wish you’d known when you started out? They responded to the hashtag #WishIdKnown to give support and advice to beginner researchers. People tweeted before, during and after the monthly one hour chat and the answers were interesting, informative and funny! We’ve summarised the best of them below.

First steps: What advice do you have about finding an idea, refining your question, picking a research approach and searching the literature?

Tips and hints for the initial stages of research included:

  • First and foremost – have passion. Pick something you are interested in as you’ll be doing it for a while.
  • Radiographers have unique perspectives and skills that can be capitalized on to improve patient experience through research so get going!
  • Look for a problem or an issue that needs solving or improving (or something that “niggles” you) – you may get better buy in/support if it will improve local practice.
  • Keep the question manageable and you’re more likely to get it done. Or break it down into a series of small problems to tackle.
  • If it fits your type of research, use a tool like PICO to help scale down a research question. The FINER framework can be used for qualitative research.
  • If you want to research and can’t think of a problem – ask around, there might be local opportunities to get involved on a team.
  • Your professional body may have research priorities or a research strategy where you can find ideas (and you are more likely to be successful if they offer grants) – e.g. the College of Radiographers Research Priorities for the Radiographic profession.
  • Talk about your question with peers, local experts or friends– or use social media – the more input you get at the beginning the better your project will be.
  • Qualitative research is a thing! You can get involved in this patient-centred type of research as a radiographer, even early on in your career.
  • Use a good reference management system and use it early! (E.g. Ref Works, End Note, Mendeley, Zotero). You can also stash papers online and make notes on ideas for the future.
  • It can take a while to refine your question but it’s worth taking the time to get it right.
  • The first stages of a research study can sometimes feel chaotic and unsure and that’s OK – it’s a question of understanding and narrowing down your topic and it will happen!

Getting going: What advice do you have about finding your support people, navigating research in academic or clinical departments, applying for ethics – the stage of beginning to tackle your project?

Ideas included:

  • Give it time, don’t feel you need to rush this part as you are building support networks.
  • Universities (and some research hospitals) have research offices that offer help and like-minded people to talk to.
  • You don’t have to know it all, seek out partnerships to prop up your weaknesses and offer help to support others based on your strengths.
  • Reach out, people genuinely want to help, and mentors can make starting a project much less painful. You don’t have to go it alone.
  • Your mentor may not be in your department, maybe a nurse researcher, doctor, medical physicist etc. can offer help and advice.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with applying for ethics, call your local IRB (Institutional Research Board) as they are often really keen to help and many offer tutorials. Getting help at the beginning can save you hours later.
  • Make friends with your local medical librarian who can help with literature searches.
  • If you’re working with a team – have the “authorship chat” early. You may not be thinking of publishing at the beginning but sort out who will be first and second author now as it can cause headaches and heartaches if you disagree when you’re submitting a paper to a journal. Look at guidelines like these.
  • Some people like to use a team charter to set out expectations, again, this can save some difficult conversations if someone isn’t pulling their weight.
  • If you’re doing research within your department- talk about it to encourage people see the value (and they may offer to help!) Chat over coffee, put up posters, do an in-service etc.
  • If you’re doing quantitative work and require statistics assistance find out what’s available through your local research department (e.g. they may have a statistician whom you can ask for advice BEFORE you start or gain access to software like SPSS).

Making a difference: What advice do you have about disseminating your research – going to conferences, developing posters, writing papers or policies – the stage of influencing practice (local and beyond)?

Collective wisdom included the following:

  • Learn to fully embrace feedback – even to seek it out! The best advice can come from people who proofread your writing, and the reviewers when you finally send it off to a journal.
  • If you’re looking to publish research done as part of your BSc or MSc – don’t wait too long! It’s easy to leave it and much harder to get back in the swing of writing after a few months (or years!)
  • Try out a presentation or a poster at a small local meeting first, or even offer to do your departmental rounds. Then work your way up to bigger conferences.
  • A poster is like a movie trailer or a preview of the paper to come!
  • Imposter syndrome is real – so much good research doesn’t get shared because of this. You are the expert in your research area so own it and disseminate your valuable work!
  • For your talk – practice, practice, practice and make sure the timing is appropriate. Don’t use too many slides or cram too much text on each one. Don’t panic if you forget a bit – your audience won’t know!
  • Be intentional – who do you want to reach? How can you change practice? Your association journal or further afield?
  • If you’re applying for a conference – your professional association may have travel funding. Some conferences also offer bursaries.
  • If you’re writing for a journal – check the author guidelines early and often. If you get stuck, email the managing editor – they are very friendly!
  • Even the most polished presenter is nervous and took hours on their slides! The best papers take multiple revisions. Don’t think you’re the only one!

Shared resources before and during the chat included these free clinical research collections from the Canadian Journal of Medical Imaging Radiation Sciences and Australia’s Journal of Medical Radiation Sciences. Also the Council for Allied Health Professions Research (CAPHR) have some useful leaflets about developing scientific posters, getting published, getting your abstract accepted and more!

Thanks to all the participants whose tweets have been paraphrased here. You can review the full chat on Wakelet.

Allied Health Professionals have a major role to play in prevention

This blog was written by Linda Hindle, the Lead Allied Health Professional for Public Health England. Linda wrote this back in May but has kindly lent it to MedRadJClub to accompany our June 2019 chat on smoking cessation.

ahp-figures-landscape.jpg

Supporting all health and care professionals to embed prevention within their practice is critical to the future of the health and care sectors.

As part of this it’s vital we look beyond the obvious NHS workforce to see how other professionals can help prevent illness, promote wellbeing and protect population health.

Allied Health Professionals make an enormous contribution to tackling public health challenges. Made up of 14 professions, including occupational therapists, paramedics, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists, AHPs are the third largest workforce in the NHS and are found across many other sectors including local government, education, housing, criminal justice and more.

Spending time with millions of people across the country every day, these professionals are well placed to offer health advice and support to a wide range of different communities.

What might this look like in practice?

Examples of support could come in the form of brief advice on healthy behaviours, detecting signs of more serious ill-health or helping people to live independent, fulfilling lives.

For instance, a physiotherapist might offer advice on healthy eating while a dietitian might signpost a smoker to local stop smoking support. Many AHPs, such as podiatrists,  also play an important role in spotting symptoms of serious conditions like cardiovascular disease, by detecting irregular pulse through routine checks.  AHPs play a critical role in supporting people to re-build their lives following a serious physical or mental illness for example developing confidence and coping skills to return to work.

Here are just some of the areas that PHE has been involved with where AHPs are making a difference:

  • Boosting early years speech and language skills: speech and language therapists are at the heart of a new PHE-led programme of work to ensure timely referrals to expert speech and language support so that children gain the skills they need to thrive at school and beyond.
  • Promoting healthy eyesight for children: orthoptists have played a crucial role in developing PHE guidance and materials to help children in reception year benefit from high quality sight tests, to ensure access to the right treatment and support.
  • Celebrating the health benefits of good work: PHE has worked with the Royal College of Occupational Therapists to train occupational therapists across the country to become Health and Work champions. These practitioners encourage health and care professionals to make conversations about work a consistent part of their care delivery.
  • Advocating the benefits of physical activity: The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has played a vital role in supporting people with long term conditions to improve their health and wellbeing through physical activity. The Love Activity Hate Exercise campaign has helped a wide range of health and care professionals to make the most from conversations about the benefits of physical activity.

Over the past five years there has been growing insight into the contribution that AHPs make to the public health agenda and how this might be enhanced.

More and more AHPs have become involved in sharing best practice and all higher education institutions now include public health within the pre-registration curricula for the Allied Health professions.

Working with the AHP Federation and others, PHE has recently published the first ever UK-wide public health strategy . This sets out our plans to maximise the contribution that AHPs make to prevention and how they can deliver public health benefits.

Over the next five years we’d like to see public health and prevention firmly embedded into the roles of all AHPs and better career pathways for those wanting to work in public health roles. It’s also important that more AHP leaders work with public health teams to identify where their skills and expertise can add value to the local prevention offer.

These professionals can and are making a vital impact on improving the health and wellbeing of the whole population. It’s time that their unique contribution was drawn on by everyone working across public health.

ahp-figures-landscape