Occupational Therapist

Nusrat Hussan, Paediatric Occupational Therapist

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust

How would you describe your current role as clinical academic?

I was awarded a pre-masters internship, which is considered the stepping stone, to developing a clinical academic research career along-side my clinical role as an occupational therapist. As a paediatric occupational therapist I work with children, young people and families at home and/or school. My role is to improve their independence and participation in their current life roles.​

This award has enabled me to develop my knowledge and understanding of research and this program has provided me with the opportunity to advance my skills in academic writing and reading, research methodology and analysis. This information has benefited me academically, professionally and personally.

My future intention is to apply for a PhD and the Clinical Academic Internship Programme has given me the chance to develop the skills and knowledge I need to work towards this higher academic level.

How did you get here?

I completed a Master’s degree in occupational therapy in 2008 and it has been my ambition to incorporate an element of research into my clinical career pathway ever since. Once I felt ready for some challenges, I started getting in touch with my colleagues, who have done some research and collected information. It was one of our senior clinical research fellows Paula Waddingham (PhD, DBO) Clinical Research Lead who directed and guided me through this excellent opportunity and she is an approved mentor for this scheme. Being an orthoptist​ herself Paula knew what opportunities there were for AHP's. My manager was also very supportive of my clinical academic career aspirations.

What difference has your research training and experience made to your career?

I am a self-learning person and would take time out of my daily routine to learn about a new treatment or new condition. Being a part of the opportunity, has taught me how to collaborate with others outside of my clinical specialty. It has also taught me that including others can add on to the knowledge and experience. This has given me confidence in taking initiatives and I have started leading some other team projects.

I am progressing in my research career and I am supporting teaching others. Now I am part of education and training teams.

Clinically, by being research active, we have more understanding of evidence and ensure that treatment is evidence-based, this also helps guarantee that patients are getting the most effective and up-to-date care.

What are your top tips for anyone wanting to become a clinical academic?

  • Early exposure to research enhances confidence in conducting research and improves critical thinking and literature appraisal skills, these qualities are essential for the evidence-based practice. It is really encouraging that there are more opportunities for AHPs to get involved in clinical research throughout the UK so we should get involved as soon as we are ready to take the challenge.

  • Also, it’s helpful to participate in clinical audits or other quality improvement projects, either voluntarily or as part of the required clinical outcome in your setting. These projects are usually small and based on retrospective chart reviews. The results of these contribute to larger research projects or inform quality improvement strategies within the clinical department. These projects present a valuable opportunity for a clinician with no experience in research to gain initial experiences and skills in research.

  • It’s important to connect with those who have the same passion - both clinically and academically. Don’t be shy about contacting them and find connections to keep you focused on what matters to you. There are always ups and downs in life but keep your spirits high and follow your clinical academic dreams! ​

July 2020