Research nurses’, midwives’ and AHPs’ experiences of line-managers and mentors

Most nurses, midwives and allied health professionals (NMAHPs) employed in research delivery roles* said they had positive working relationships with their line-managers. Many felt they were given a good degree of independence, and liked that they were trusted to manage their own time and study commitments. Layla found this was quite different compared to working as a clinical midwife*. However, sometimes people wanted more support from their line-managers. A few people felt quite isolated and that they were left to make decisions that they didn’t feel they should have to make, or that their activities (including undertaking PhDs) were not championed enough and seen as valuable. Uncertainty about the renewal of fixed-term contracts could also be a source of tension with line-managers.

Sometimes line-managers were from the same health professional background as the research NMAHPs, other times they were not. Sian thought that having a line-manager who was a nurse was ‘really helpful to make sure that the two, that research and nursing, fits snuggly together like a glove rather than it being friction’. Whilst some people felt that having a line-manager who was from a different background to them was an issue, others saw it as an asset and some people felt it did not make a difference either way. For those people who felt it could be problem, this often stemmed from feeling that their line-manager might not understand their profession-specific priorities, values and career development needs.

Libby was due to be line-managed by a physiotherapist for the first time in her research career.

Age at interview 45

Gender Female

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Over time, Layla adjusted to working with more autonomy than she had been used to as a clinical midwife.

Gender Female

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Some people had more than one line-manager. This was sometimes because of the structures in their employing organisation, as was the case for Ellen who found it was sometimes unclear who she should contact about specific queries. For those who had a non-research clinical and research split in their workloads or in separate jobs, there were usually two (or more) line-managers.

A number of people talked about having mentors who were not their line-managers, from formal mentoring schemes or unofficially. Across thirty years of her career, Karen described a number of individuals who had encouraged her to pursue research alongside clinical work, but also some people who were supportive in the sense that they did not try to block or stop her from undertaking research.

Graham didn’t have any official training when he started as a research paramedic, but he had good mentors who also supported him in pursuing a doctorate.

Age at interview 40

Gender Male

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Those NMAHPs who were undertaking research as part of an academic qualification or skills development internship also talked about their supervisors.


*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).