The topic of space (in terms of offices and locations in which to see potential participants) was a major one for many of the research nurses, midwives and allied health professionals (NMAHPs)* we talked to. Most had an office and desk space, although some people had hot-desked in the past. The office spaces were not always ideal – they were often described as quite small, sometimes a multi-purpose space used by non-research clinical others* too, and did not always have adequate space for filing study paperwork. Most people shared an office with other research NMAHPs, which Ellen liked: ‘you can share good practice and you can share problems and you can problem-solve together’. Paul found his could get noisy though, so he sometimes booked a room to focus quietly on completing training. Sometimes offices were close to where the research NMAHPs needed to be to see patients or others on their research team (including PIs), but other times they were some distance away. There were pros and cons to both situations. Although she wanted to be closer to where the clinical non-research midwives were based, one bonus for Osi was that she could avoid being ‘roped into too much clinical [extra work]’.
Some roles meant research NMAHPs had to work at multiple clinical sites (hospitals, GP surgeries) and/or visit other locations, including participants’ homes, care homes and hospices. Dawn’s role covered multiple hospitals so she tried to ‘pool my appointments and my visits to either one or the other’. She also encountered problems with computer access at the different hospitals – this is better now she has a laptop, although printing remains a challenge.
Some people really enjoyed going to different locations as part of their job. Sandra liked that ‘you’ve got more variation, you’ve got more teams to work with’. For Vicky, being able to travel was ‘a real plus point of the job’ compared to her background working in critical care where ‘you often don’t move very far from one patient’s bedside throughout a long shift’. However, Ella found the travelling to home visits ‘a bit too much sometimes’ and could become ‘overwhelming’ if they were too tightly scheduled in.
Spaces to see participants
Finding appropriate spaces to see research participants (or potential participants) and access to required facilities to carry out study activities was often difficult. This was vital when confidential and sensitive topics were being discussed. It could be a case of trying different options until one was found and having good working relationships with clinical colleagues could be a major asset. As Jo explained, ‘it’s just about negotiating that space with whoever’s there and doing the best you can. Nine times out of ten, you always get somewhere in the end’. Although Alison recognised it was unlikely, she felt that fundamentally there was a ‘need to redesign all the buildings of clinical spaces to assume participation in research’.
Like others, Helen felt research staff were ‘way down the pecking order of whether we can have a clinic room to see patients’. This could mean being resourceful with what was available. Helen had at times used ‘little corners, sometimes I’ve even sat in a little changing room to speak to a patient because there isn’t the space for us’. Melanie and her research team had sometimes been ‘ousted out of a room’: ‘it’s not good for staff morale either to feel that you’re the bottom of the pile’. A lack of space for research could mean that patients missed out on the opportunity to take part in studies.
Some people had dedicated spaces to see patients and access to research facilities. Libby used a ‘pod’ which had been set up as a dedicated space for seeing research participants – this was a ‘shielded off area of a waiting room’ which provided a ‘private, quiet environment’. Nicky found being able to use a research unit with rooms, beds and equipment ‘makes life really easy for us when we see patients’. In some circumstances and with careful planning, it was possible to get access to rooms and facilities by fitting around clinic times.
*The people interviewed for this website were mostly research NMAHPs (i.e. those employed in a research delivery role). However, we also interviewed some NMAHP researchers (i.e. those leading research as independent researchers). The latter group included people who were undertaking or had completed academic research qualifications, such as PhDs, and many had previously been in (or continued to also be in) research delivery roles. For more information about the distinctions between these roles and the sample of NMAHPs interviewed for this project, please see the Introduction section.
*Many research NMAHPs and NMAHP researchers felt strongly that they continued to be clinical within their research roles. As such, the wording of ‘research’ NMAHPs/staff and ‘clinical’ NMAHPs/staff can be problematic for implying that research is not also clinical activity. Where the wording ‘clinical staff’ is used on the website, we mean for this refer to non-research clinical staff (i.e. those who are not currently employed to carry out research or enrolled to pursue research through an academic qualification).