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14.3. Researcher Case Study 1

I became interested in research whilst undertaking A level psychology: I was fascinated that there was more than one answer or perspective to a problem. I was also fascinated with technology and how things work so a career in diagnostic radiography seemed ideal, the perfect mix of patient psychology and technology. My passion for asking questions meant that I thoroughly enjoyed my research module as part of my undergraduate degree at the University of Hertfordshire, and that was when I realised research and radiography could be combined.

I loved working as a radiographer and initially began to specialise in trauma and CT, but I found it difficult to maintain my interest in everyday work when there was so much more to learn. My early clinical years taught me that despite all our advances in medical technology, there was still so much more that wasn’t known. 

At that time (2000) there was a move within the NHS towards the 4 tier structure. Before this change could be implemented there was a need to know more about competencies and occupational standards. I had an opportunity to move back to the University of Hertfordshire as a researcher on a 1 year project on the development of occupational standards in medical imaging and oncology (Prime N, Mellor F.E. et al. 2000). During this project I learnt a lot about clinical governance and qualitative research methods, however I missed clinical practice so I registered as a bank radiographer at two local hospitals and undertook out of hours shifts covering holidays and sickness. This was when I realised there was overlap between research and clinical practice with the former feeding the latter, but equally the gap between them was huge with little understanding between the two sides. This was the point where my aim became to combine radiography with research in a more practical way, and to encourage radiographers to become more engaged with research at all levels.

This motivation encouraged me to seek out further training and I found many free courses available from understanding ethics to the local Research Design Service (RDS), as well as submitting abstracts to conferences where I leant from other presenters. At the same time I joined the Anglo European College of Chiropractic in Bournemouth to help develop fluoroscopy to measure the movement of the lumbar spine. This was a perfect opportunity to combine radiography with research and also learn about quantitative research methods. I also gained a fascinating insight into the world of back pain and how a multi-disciplinary approach, especially involving AHPs and MSK practitioners, was essential. 

Once again I also made contact with a local hospital and offered my services as a bank radiographer which satisfied my other clinical interests. I joined the Society of Radiographer’s research group in 2006 and later the Research Forum for Allied Health Professions in 2008. These groups gave me a great overview of how changes at the top are influenced by evidence from the shop floor, how this evidence needs to be underpinned by good clinical research and effective dissemination and how working across professions in a truly multi-disciplinary way is essential, not just across clinical professions but also across academics and researchers.

I admit my bias is for research but this is inextricably linked to education and clinical practice, they do not stand alone. Working in both clinical and academic settings (some of it voluntary) made the new PhD funding scheme from the National Institute for Health Research an ideal opportunity.  I was successful in gaining a fellowship in 2009 for a part time PhD using fluoroscopy to look at inter-vertebral motion. This fellowship has opened many doors including access to much wider support and encouragement as a whole and in relation to my PhD. I also met many other dynamic AHPs, nurses and midwives who believe that their passion, research and clinical practice can change their service for the better. Having such a peer group is great personal motivation.

I am in a really fortunate position with the perfect mix of research, clinical practice and education. I enjoy working as a radiographer and I also enjoy engaging with the profession on a wider level, using and synthesising evidence to influence practice and policy, and encouraging radiographers to engage with research. The NIHR fellowship also brings responsibilities and I am always flattered, and bemused, to be asked to speak at conferences. On a more serious note however I hope my story can encourage other radiographers to grasp the opportunities available to them and to forge their own pathway.

Fiona Mellor, Research Radiographer/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow, Anglo-European College of Chiropractic, Bournemouth. UK.

Reference

Prime N, Mellor FE et al.   (2000). Imaging and Oncology: The Future Development of Occupational Standards - Project to Determine the Potential for the Continued Development of Occupational Standards in Imaging and Oncology. N. Prime, University of Hertfordshire. UK.

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