Research: Still a token gesture?

Published: 27 June 2016 Ezine

Author: Rachel Harris

Every week members contact me with research queries and problems. Usually, we manage to resolve them, or at least allay most worries.

Recently, two members contacted me on the same day and gave me cause for great concern for the future of our profession. One worked in academia, the other in clinical practice. Both had research in their job descriptions, with the expectation of undertaking this aspect of the role at interview.

Both had now been advised that due to lack of time they would be unable to do research in their roles. No provision was made to support research activity from the outset and no job plans existed with secure time. There was also no forward planning to manage their workloads.

Of course, we can fully empathise and understand the pressures to meet demands and targets. But, are we just firefighting?

It turns out that both individuals are demoralised and are now likely to leave their posts because they see no career progression. So the firefighting hasn’t really worked.

Worse still, a new ‘fire’ is about to break out as these departments will need to find replacement staff.

What a loss, at every level - to the individual, to the department and to the profession.

Why do research? Well, the question should always be: why wouldn’t you do research? If research is being treated as “a token gesture” (a phrase I used in the Radiography journal back in 2000, when I was still working clinically), and not recognised as a legitimate part of professional activity, then what is really happening to our patient care?

Patient care is more than ensuring we treat a patient within a required waiting list target. The standards of our care must be substantiated.

Good patient care needs us to be questioning and investigating so that we are constantly improving and moving forward as a profession.

When I have discussions about people not undertaking research, a number of barriers are mentioned, but time is always the main one.

We have no time to do research. Our research time has been taken away.

Those in our education institutions and clinical departments who are successfully undertaking research have not found a way of creating a day with more than 24 hours in it. They do not have lesser workloads, or an easier working life. So how do they manage to do research?

They have pre-planned workloads and they have support. Their research has been appreciated by
others and this has created a positive culture where staff feel valued and involved.

To be a profession, research MUST be an accepted part of what we do. Without it, can we truly call ourselves allied health professionals?

At this year’s ADC, supporting the new SCoR Research Strategy was one of the motions. It was carried, but there was a lot of discussion and some opposition. The reason?  Some felt it was unacceptable to have a research element written into every radiographer’s job description.

We are not saying every radiographer should be doing research all of the time. What we are saying is at different levels of staff there should be different expectations as to the extent and depth of their research involvement. This is also a requirement of our HCPC registration to practice.

So, 16 years on from my paper in Radiography, is research still a token gesture?

Yes, it would appear it is. As a profession we really need to consider that without us undertaking research then there is the grave possibility of us losing our professional status and parity with our AHP and nursing colleagues.

At ADC someone suggested that if we include research in job descriptions then are we lining ourselves up to fail. We know that there are problems in practice, and barriers, but removing research because it is difficult to achieve is not the answer.

Research and service evaluation are an essential part of the four core domains of our practice and between us we all need to find solutions. So surely, if we do not include research in our job descriptions then we will indeed line ourselves up to fail.

Click here to contact Rachel.

Click here to read the SCoR's research strategy.