Speech & Language Therapist

Lucy Southby, Speech and Language Therapist

Lead Specialist Speech and Language Therapist and HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow (CDRF) (2016 – 2020)

How would you describe your current role as clinical academic?

My role as a clinical academic has been developing as part of undertaking the HEE/NIHR CDRF and integrating this knowledge and experience into my clinical role. The fellowship involves research skill training, completing a research study and maintaining and developing clinical skills. I have been learning to navigate research infrastructure/processes and establishing links with networks of early career and senior clinical academics as well as research teams.

I integrate what I have learnt during the fellowship into my current clinical leadership role and advocate for clinical academic career development within my team and organisation including supporting others to follow a similar path. I support and contribute to the development of research capacity, capability and output within my clinical team which I plan to continue beyond the fellowship.

How did you get here?

I qualified as a speech and language therapist with an MSc in 2005 and have worked in different speech and language therapy clinical specialities with adult and paediatric caseloads. I had an interest in research from early in my career. Through my current clinical specialism, I was exposed to inspiring clinical academic leaders and able to be involved in audit and service evaluation through which I learnt useful skills. Once I knew I wanted to undertake more formal research training and pursue a clinical academic career, I made this clear in interviews and supervision to enable access to learning, support and opportunities for experience. I approached one of my current PhD supervisors at a conference having been inspired by their presentation. Over the period of a couple of years, I identified a research question and was supported through the process of applying for the CDRF. I also progressed to a clinical leadership role.

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

The research training and experience gained during my fellowship has had a significant impact on how I approach both my clinical work and my ability to pursue a clinical academic career. The knowledge and experience I have gained has enhanced my reflective, strategic, leadership and general analytical skills as well as my research skills specifically. It has also given me the confidence to advocate for clinical academic career development opportunities and to take a lead role within my clinical team in relation to developing clinical research. The networks and infrastructure I have accessed and the connections I have made enable me to support others pursuing a similar path and have also opened up opportunities for me to continue my own clinical academic career development.

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

  • Take any opportunities that arise, however small, to gain research experience.

  • Seek out opportunities to gain skills and experience and access helpful organisations/groups.

  • Undertake small, internal audit and service evaluation projects to help you learn some relevant skills but also to demonstrate how examining evidence, in whatever form, can inform and potentially improve clinical services.

  • Make your desire to develop as a clinical academic clear at interviews and/or annual development reviews to show your ambition, how this can benefit patient care and services and to facilitate you to access support and development opportunities.

  • Make connections with other aspiring clinical academics and seek out networks of like-minded people both internal to your organisation and externally, to share knowledge and access peer support.

  • If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to approach more senior clinical academics for advice or to ask questions.