A more flexible career structure is needed if nurses who pursue a research career are to combine clinical and academic work rather than having to opt for one of these roles at the expense of the other, recommends a new report from the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC).

The report, Developing the best research professionals, was produced by the UKCRC Subcommittee for Nurses in Clinical Research in collaboration with Modernising Nursing Careers, an initiative established by the four UK Chief Nursing Officers in 2005/06 as part of a broader programme of work to reform and modernise carer structures in the health professions. A draft version was published in December 2006 and went out for a 12-week public consultation.

The report looks at the current role of nurses in the UK as researchers and educators, as well as the barriers preventing them from realising their full potential in these fields. It presents recommendations for preparing and supporting the clinical academic nurses of the future, and addresses the need to develop a clear career pathway for nurses involved in clinical research.

Report recommendations

Among the recommendations are that training programmes emerging through the UK Clinical Research Networks and clinical research facilities should be regarded as “preparatory steps towards the new training path”; that career flexibility should be enabled through the introduction of seasonally based contracts of employment that allow nurses to work as clinicians while pursuing other roles as researchers and/or educators; and that a “well articulated” system of mentoring and peer support should be developed for nurse researchers and educators, including emerging researchers.

The report and a summary of the public consultation responses may be downloaded from the UKCRC’s website at www.ukcrc.org.