Those in research delivery roles‚ whether nurses, midwives, allied health professionals (NMAHPs), or others‚ are the people ‘on the ground’ who carry out study activities. As Osi said about research midwives, ‘they make it happen’. Whilst the protocol or research plan will usually have been designed by someone else, they carry out research but do not necessarily have input into design, analysis or dissemination of the research. Not everyone we spoke to for this study was in a solely research delivery role, but many were*.
Research delivery roles can involve a huge range of activities. These varied from place to place, team to team and study to study but, at their core, they involve working with patients, collecting data and liaising with the wider research team. People with the same or similar job title might be involved in some activities (whether or not acknowledged in their job description), whilst others were not. Sometimes this was down to personal choices by the individual, other times it was to do with the way the research role or teams were structured and managed, and what types of opportunities for extra activities were available or encouraged
Recruitment and data collection
At the core of the research delivery activities described by research NMAHPs were:
- recruiting participants to studies (identifying and approaching eligible patients, and taking consent), and
- data collection and management (including reporting adverse events).
These activities varied depending on study type and the topic of interest, as well as sponsor/funder (e.g. academic, commercial). Most people we spoke to were involved in supporting several projects simultaneously, often with a great deal of variety. There were certain steps and activities involved in most studies which were undertaken by research NMAHPs. For example, the majority involved identifying eligible participants who were then approached in person to see if they would be interested in taking part in the study. If they were willing to be enrolled, they usually signed consent forms.
However, there were a few contexts where these types of research delivery activities flowed or occurred in a different way to the ‘norm’. Graham explained that paramedic studies do not generally identify patients and then approach them for consent to enrol, owing to the emergency situations and because patients may be unconscious. Instead, he said that cluster randomisation (in which a group of patients, rather than individuals, are randomised) and retrospective consent was often used.
As a research nurse, Vicky was involved in many activities as part of a trial for children with glue ear.
Sanjos, a research radiographer, gave an overview of his research activities.
Other related sections on the website
The roles of research NMAHPs are multidimensional, involving a variety of activities and skills. Within this, it often involved:
- liaising/working with colleagues (including Principal Investigators in study teams or centres and non-research clinical colleagues*) and
- supporting patients during research.
Some people we spoke to were also involved in extra activities beyond research delivery including assessing the feasibility of studies and research team management as well as helping raise awareness about the value of research via publicity and teaching.
*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).