- Tootie is in the fourth year of her PhD and is a HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow
- Tootie is a Registered Nurse, whose clinical specialty is Inherited Cardiac Conditions, and she is based at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care
- Tootie’s thesis title is Developing a psychoeducational intervention to support patients undergoing screening and/or predictive genetic testing for inherited cardiac conditions (the PISICC study)
Tootie, could you give us a brief summary of your route into a PhD, including previous research experience, and how this was funded?
I have always wanted to pursue a research career even as a nursing undergraduate. As a nurse who trained in a different country (the Philippines), I did not find a supportive environment for this when I started working in the UK. It wasn’t until I was mentored five years down the line by a senior nurse and championed by a cardiology consultant to pursue an MSc that the pathway to a clinical academic career became a possibility for me. I was then nurtured and supported in the cardiovascular and genetics departments at King’s College Hospital and Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospital which gave me a taster for conducting primary research. I was also becoming more advanced in my clinical practice as a cardiac genetics nurse and identifying gaps in care where evidence was sparse and where I felt I could make a difference. With the guidance of my academic supervisors at KCL, I was able to develop a successful application for the NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship.
What are your long-term ambitions for your clinical academic career?
I have grand plans to set the standard for cardiac genetic nursing practice, have a research group of my own and forge international research collaborations focused on improving the care of patients and families affected by inherited cardiac conditions – maybe one day! I also want to inspire more nurses to pursue the clinical academic career pathway and be a good mentor for them.
What tips would you give to a clinician newly embarking on an out-of-programme research project, such as a PhD or MD(Res)?
I think it is important to have a good balance of research and clinical time. As nurses, we are already qualified so it is key to focus on honing research skills during the PhD but we also need to keep in mind what we need to maintain, or if needed increase, our clinical skills and knowledge. Do not lose touch with your clinical team and set up a patient and public group to guide your research so you are always aware of what is important to patients. Be out there, meet a range of people from different research backgrounds who will not only enhance your academic experience but perhaps turn out to be great collaborators on future projects. On a practical note, get your ethics application in early!
What support has been most helpful to you in terms of navigating your clinical academic career to date?
My academic supervisors have been great at supporting me through my PhD so choose well! It is also crucial that you get support from your clinical team/management as often as nurses, you must work with them to define your role post-PhD and how to make best use of your new skills. Also, find mentors outside your institution/profession as often they can be helpful in achieving your short-term goals and give you a broader view and opportunities for your clinical academic career.
Finally, I don’t think I could have survived this far without the support of my PhD peer group and we have helped each other navigate forms and regulations, I always have someone to lean on through all sorts of ups and downs and we cheer each other on with our successes. Doing a PhD can be quite isolating so having a peer group, alongside quality time with family and friends, counteracts this.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a Health Professional Researcher?
I think being a clinical academic gives you a mindset where you are always actively looking for ways to improve patient care and I think as a nurse, I have a unique insight on how patients experience care and cope with their condition. I find it really rewarding to be able to work collaboratively with patients to design and conduct research that is pertinent to them and to be able to impact on their care more widely that goes beyond an individual consultation.