“Be curious, be brave, achieve more” - Charlotte's story
Earlier this year, Charlotte Buckland, a frailty clinical specialist physiotherapist at Newcastle Hospitals, was awarded a research internship, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).
The funding supported Charlotte to run a six-month research project focussed on ageing-related disease.
Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and strength and is common in older people. The condition affects gait, balance, and ability to perform daily tasks. Charlotte’s research aimed to gather evidence that could help to identify patients who are at risk of developing sarcopenia before they are discharged from hospital.
Charlotte hopes her research could help clinicians to effectively plan a patient’s rehabilitation and maintain their independence outside of hospital.
Here she shares her experience to “inspire others to consider this fantastic learning opportunity”:
“My interest in research began in 1998 while working for Astra Zeneca on industrial placement as part of a Human Biology degree at Loughborough University. I worked supporting clinical trials where I particularly enjoyed interacting with participants and I knew that this would be an important part of my future career, and alongside my passion for therapy this led to me studying physiotherapy, qualifying in 2003.
“After working in a variety of physiotherapy roles I have found my current role as frailty clinical specialist at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust particularly rewarding as it combines my love of clinical work, the challenge of working across multidisciplinary teams and has highlighted my appreciation for the role of research in improving outcomes in frailty.
“After considerable time outside of education I was keen to enhance and update my research skills to ensure that I am applying research in the most effective way, particularly when promoting best practice care.
The NIHR/BRC internship not only provided me an exciting and accessible opportunity to develop and strengthen research capabilities and confidence, but also gave me access and mentoring by leading experts in the field of ageing syndromes and research.
“The six-month funded programme afforded me one day a week set aside for research development between March-August 2022. It felt serendipitous that there was such an excellent and well-timed opportunity so relevant to my career goals.
This internship has provided so many excellent learning opportunities, I have gained a wealth of hugely beneficial knowledge and skills. I have made invaluable connections with colleagues within my organisation, the BRC and NIHR. I have met clinical researchers, experts, and academics, and have widely expanded my professional network. Listening to individual’s research journeys has been incredibly inspiring.
Enthusiastic to acquire research competencies relevant to my clinical practice, I engaged in the following learning activities:
- Refreshed literature searching skills specifically on the implementation of grip strength testing for older adults in clinical practice
- Experienced the learning process and challenges of completing and registering a rapid literature review protocol
- Completed Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training with certification
- Shadowed a ‘MASS Life course’ study day at the Campus of Ageing and Research Unit (CARU), observed sarcopenia risk assessment, outcome measures and muscle biopsy
- Observed 4 Trial Management Group (TMG) meetings for the ‘MET-PREVENT’ trial, learnt considerations of research delivery, team, process, language, issues, and timeline
- Attended a Regional Ethics Committee (REC) meeting, this expanded my awareness of ethical processes, panel diversity, and key considerations around safety, quality, and beneficence
- Experienced British Geriatric Society (BGS) Spring Conference
- Attended local NMAHP research strategy launch, where future learning and funding opportunities were shared
I have developed in many areas including:
- Confidence to be curious and brave to achieve personal growth
- Communication, familiarity with research acronyms and language particularly the importance of using keywords in title/abstract to ensure research is accessible and discoverable
- Contribution, recognising the value and opportunities for my contribution to research
- Self-awareness – recognising personal growth, value strengths and nurture areas for development
- Role modelling, recognise my role to share my experience and influence others to be research active
- Teamwork – the value of building relationships, collaborative and shared experience
- Organisation – better planning, time-management, and problem-solving skills
- Resilience and flexibility – specifically to embrace challenges, think creatively about solutions, and adopt a pragmatic approach and celebrate progress
This internship experience has been empowering and enabled me to acquire confidence and important research literacy. Over the next six months, I hope to apply this new knowledge by completing the literature review, gaining experience of research delivery, and cultivating my critical thinking and formulation of project design skills.
I am hugely grateful to the program lead, Linda Tinkler, my BRC mentor, Prof. Miles Witham and my research mentor, Kate Hallsworth, all who have provided expert support and guidance.