How healthcare professionals can get started in clinical research

How healthcare professionals can get started in clinical research

An increasing number of healthcare professionals in the UK are expanding into the field of clinical research, for career advancement and because of the rewarding nature of the work.

Many healthcare professionals are discovering that participating in high quality research studies can enhance career pathways.

It expands the scope of their expertise, provides experience in a niche area, and exposes them to leaders in other fields.

But for many healthcare professionals looking to expand into clinical research, there is one reason above all others: it benefits patients.

Patients who are involved in clinical research report that they have a better understanding of the management of their condition, more contact time with their practitioner, and feel that they are in some way, giving back to the healthcare system.

Types of clinical research roles

While a career in clinical research appeals to many, it can be difficult to get a foot in the door.

Clinical research roles normally require some experience in clinical research monitoring, and bolstering experience in this type of role, or others connected to research, will help your chances of success.

The role of a Clinical Research Associate or Clinical Research Monitor are among the most sought-after jobs within clinical research, and often offer a great entry into the field. Hands-on experience and training are required to be considered for these roles, and historically many large pharmaceutical companies hired science and healthcare professionals to work in clinical research. However, with shifting business models and budgets available today, these types of roles have become available outside the pharmaceutical industry.

The role of a Clinical Research Scientist is another coveted job within clinical research. It is generally office-based and offers scientific support to the operational side of clinical research. The role requires several years’ experience in clinical research, often within clinical trials, and requires knowledge of regulations, submission processes and assessments.

There is also the role of the Clinical Research Coordinator, which involves being responsible for the administrative and organisational components of clinical trials. The job often requires a strong background in medicine, nursing or a related science field.

Tips for getting into clinical research

It’s important for healthcare professionals to make sure their CV is research-ready.

Clinical research roles usually require candidates to have a degree in a life science or other health-related discipline. In addition, a Master’s degree or a PhD can also help their chances.

Candidates should also look for research opportunities in their current speciality. What separates them from the many other applicants could be their background.

It can also be helpful, initially, to seek out roles in the area in which they already work and integrate research into their current roles.

There may even be clinical research opportunities available within the hospital or facility for which the healthcare professional already works. Some medical centres offer programs for inexperienced graduates, including graduate assessment days and internships. They may even find they already have a professional relationship with someone who can help.

Be aware, though, that although these are good ways to gain experience, the commercial space is quite different and transitioning later can have its challenges.

Some healthcare professionals gain research experience by working on academic projects or working within a healthcare body such as the NHS in the UK.

Most importantly, healthcare professionals looking to move into clinical research should put themselves out there.

Ideally, they should find a mentor or network of healthcare professionals working in research that they can turn to for career advice and who might just be able to share tips and uncover leads to research opportunities.

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