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Student nurse of the year: Why I love research

Nursing Times’ Student of the Year for clinical research describes her love of research and how she developed a pilot research-elective placement.

Published: 15 June 2023

The Nursing Times Student Nurse of the Year: Clinical Research

Bethan Jones is a fourth-year nursing student at the University of Leicester. She was recently awarded The Nursing Times Student Nurse of the Year: Clinical Research. In this piece, Bethan describes her love of research and how she shaped her studies to include a research element.

On my course, Dual Field Nursing (Child and Mental Health) with Leadership, my time is split between physical and mental health learning and placement settings. It also has an additional leadership element, with modules on how to be a future nurse leader. As part of the programme, we spend time with nurse leaders that we can use as our own role models.

I think being a student nurse puts you in a very fortunate position. While you are tied to your university for study, you have a lot of freedom to explore your own interests. This is something I have been able to do throughout my four years, and to be honest I think that freedom is what lead to my Nursing Times award.

There have been challenges. My main issues have been balancing my interest in research with studying, being on placement and my personal life. Add a global pandemic, with some personal losses and it’s safe to say being a student nurse has been very mentally and emotionally challenging. Challenging, but still worth it. Throughout these challenges, I have found opportunities to continue my passion for research.

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Why I love research and the NHS

I love research. I love how it challenges the status quo. At its heart, research is questioning why things are the way they are and trying to discover a better understanding of that process. It’s almost like a puzzle to be solved, and I do love a puzzle!

I also love how research always produces more questions. It may be frustrating at times, but I really enjoy how continuous research is. If I could use one word to describe it, I would use ‘infinite’.

The NHS is a land of opportunity. Despite the challenges it faces, I don’t see anywhere better to develop myself into a clinical academic than the NHS.

Developing my placement

Before starting my nursing degree, I did a degree in medical physiology. I was always very research-minded and wanted to continue that in my nursing career. Imagine my disappointment when I couldn’t find a research-elective placement in my nursing area. Fortunately, the research and development team at Leicester Partnership Trust were able to help create a research-elective placement.

The placement covered a range of areas to help equip people like me for a career in research, including:

  • shadowing and interviewing nurses facilitating local research projects
  • training and teaching sessions to understand the process of how research is created, approved and delivered in healthcare trusts
  • spending time with patients and patient and public involvement committees
  • interviewing and shadowing nurses and allied health professionals at various stages of their academic career
  • consolidating this learning by producing and presenting a research proposal

I now have the capacity to continue to run the placement for future student nurses. I wanted to help create something that was long-lasting so that other students had the opportunity to explore a career in clinical academia before qualifying. The placement allows students to map their careers and removes some of the mystery surrounding research.

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