Communicate marks a point of transition in the EPIC model for engagement with research where the focus shifts from aspects of research engagement relevant to all healthcare professionals to a focus on those wishing to increase their engagement with research as part of their career development.
In effect it marks the point of stepping into the space of saying, ‘I’d like to get more involved in research’ and moves into the realms of a personal exploration of what ‘I’d like to get more involved in research‘ actually means and then communicating this to others.
If you are interested in increasing your engagement with research where and how does this interest show up in your work and personal life currently? Are you ‘lurking’ waiting for the right moment or conversation to take place or are you being proactive and talking to anyone and everyone who may be able to support you in moving forward?
If you are lurking what is holding you back? Is it uncertainty about how to progress or an inner critic posing challenging questions such as, ‘are you really good enough to do this?’ or ‘you will only say something stupid if you arrange to speak with that person.’
One thing is for sure, this is the time to start talking and exploring. Within a clinical context it can be a challenge to identify a mentor who understands the range of opportunities open to you. This is one reason why the first component of the EPIC model was Explore. If you develop an understanding of the research landscape within your organisation, locality or profession you will have an idea of who to seek advice from and may already have made some connections.
Unfamiliarity with the research landscape can lead all too quickly down the familiar route of feeling that you need to enrol for Masters level study, without exploring some of the alternatives. In some instances this will absolutely be the right course but in others it can lead you away from engagement with research if undertaking a Masters is not a route you wish to pursue.
It takes time, and some effort, to unpick what lies behind ‘I’d like to get more involved with research’ as it will mean different things to different people. For example it could mean, I’d like to:
- commit to a taught module to get a feel for whether or not research is for me
- explore options for learning outside of academia
- explore how to get involved in supporting other people’s research
- undertake academic study focused specifically on research
- undertake academic study focused on clinical development which has a research component
- find other people in my clinical setting to explore undertaking a small project together
- explore options that would enable me to dip my toe in the water of research to see if this is right for me
- work on an evidence synthesis project of relevance to my clinical practice
- step out of clinical practice and explore a full time research position
As you can see there are a range of possibilities, and this list is not exhaustive, therefore exploring the options and, as importantly developing a sense of where research sits in your life, will give you an indication of where to locate your time and energy in terms of moving forward.
Tied up in this process are decisions not only about the right course of action in terms of your career development but also, in most instances, decisions about your level of commitment to research, ideas about your career trajectory, the kind of work/life balance you are seeking and potential financial implications. Questions such as:
- How do I feel about giving up evenings and weekends to study for a period of time alongside my clinical practice?
- Are there other aspects of my clinical practice I want/need to develop more than research?
- What impact will my decision have on the other people in my life (partners, children, friends etc)
- What is really fuelling this interest in research and is it strong enough to sustain me over a 2 or 3 year period of part-time study?
- If funding isn’t available via my employer do I need to explore other avenues of financial support?
By gaining clarity about what you want to do and the options open to you it then becomes possible to articulate this coherently to your line managers and other key stakeholders. It is unrealistic to think that they will be familiar with all of the different options available outside of formal academic study. The onus is therefore on you to take the initiative.
Gaining clarity will also enable you to think about the timeframes you are working in. For example applications for personal fellowships may only arise on an annual basis, the same for applications for financial support and the commencement of postgraduate programmes. Such deadlines need to be factored into your planning to ensure that you don’t just miss a deadline and have to wait another year to progress.
Developing skills and expertise
In terms of the transferable research skills developed by stepping into this space they are focused predominantly around increasing your personal effectiveness as shown below in Domain B of the Researcher Development Framework.
The emphasis is on taking ownership for clarifying your thinking and commitment, seeking information and then communicating this to others.
The next post in the EPIC series will provide some suggestions to help you with this process of clarification and communication and over the coming weeks there will be a series of posts designed to give you insight into some of the different options mentioned earlier.