Laurie Cave - Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship

In this case study, I briefly summarise my journey from Specialist Children’s Cystic Fibrosis Dietitian to HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT) and the University of Leeds (UoL), and what the fellowship brings.

I have always been interested in research and how it informs evidence-based practice. In 2016-17, I took time out from my busy clinical role to complete a HEE/NIHR Masters in Clinical Research. This gave me formal and comprehensive research training and the opportunity to conduct in-depth independent research, from conception to dissemination. On return to full-time clinical practice, I obtained pre-doctoral funding from Leeds Cares and a HEE/NIHR bridging fellowship. These awards enabled me to take my next step along the ICA pathway by developing a competitive application for a HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship (CDRF). The application process was challenging, but I learnt a lot and I received excellent support from my supervisors, clinical academics across LTHT and UoL and my amazing patients and families. All the hard work was worth it as the CDRF provides a fantastic opportunity to do a PhD as an experienced clinician. It really is the complete package: I am developing my research skills and experience, clinical and professional skills, alongside continuing clinical practice; the funding covers my PhD fees, all my research costs, a personally tailored training and development programme, my salary and there is backfill to my clinical post.

I enjoy the ongoing support and collaboration with my supervisors, expert advisors (in methods and topic), and mentors, including my ICA mentor. Through training in mentoring and leadership, I am also able to mentor and support other dietitians and allied health professionals wanting to develop clinical academic careers. The CDRF is providing many openings. For example, it is enabling me to build my networks for future potential collaborations and develop a greater understanding of ethics through my role as an ethics reviewer. The CDRF is also enabling me to develop specific knowledge, skills and experience in conducting research with children. This is a particular highlight, as it allows me to explore children’s experiences and views about their care and how it can be improved, which for me, is what research is all about.