9th February 2024
We are delighted to share this Voices blog by Dr Sharin Baldwin, Senior Health Visitor Research Lead at iHV, where Sharin describes her experiences and key points of becoming a nurse and pursuing her research career. It also includes a link to a NIHR video of Sharin, when she was working in an NHS Trust before she joined the iHV, to encourage more health visitors to engage and lead research.
In the video, Dr Sharin Baldwin, Nursing and Clinical Academic Lead at London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust (at that time), explains:
- why they became a nurse and midwife
- key moments in their career
- how they discovered the NIHR clinical academy research pathway
- who supported them to pursue a research career
- challenges faced and how overcome
- and much more
‘Making Research Matter: Chief Nursing Officer for England’s strategic plan for research’ in November 2021, placed a greater focus on the importance of nurse lead research. The strategy aims to “create a people-centred research environment that empowers nurses to lead, participate in, and deliver research, where research is fully embedded in practice and professional decision-making, for public benefit” . To achieve this, we need to develop future nurse leaders in research.
We know that nurses and health visitors make up the largest staff group in healthcare , yet they are an under-represented discipline when it comes to leading and undertaking research. A recent review carried out by the NIHR of their portfolio of studies for the Research for Patient Benefit Programme (RfPB) reported that the majority of applicants funded in lead and co-applicant roles were medically qualified (41%), with nurses and midwives making up only 8% of the successful applicants . Most of these nurses and midwives however took on co-applicant and research delivery support roles rather than the lead role in research projects . This not only limits access to career development opportunities for individuals but also hinders the development of the profession. The situation within health visiting is even more worrying, as there are very few health visitors undertaking research or following academic career pathways. As existing professors and academics in the field retire, this is likely to leave a huge gap for the health visiting profession.
Health visitors have a unique position when it comes to research as they not only have expertise in parental and child health, but also understand community and population health. They work across healthcare, social care and education boundaries, ideally placing them to identify health needs and improving individual and population health through research. The importance of research is also highlighted in the recent NMC Standards of proficiency for Specialist Community Public Health Nurses .
Starting or pursuing an academic career can be daunting. Many people do not want to give up their clinical career to pursue an academic one. This was also the case for me, I chose to follow a clinical academic path so that I could develop in both areas of my career which I really enjoyed. I feel very proud to be the first health visitor to be awarded the NIHR Clinical Doctoral Fellowship. Although I did not succeed on my first attempt, with the right support and mentorship I persevered and was successful on my third application. It is really important that we encourage other health visitors to embark on clinical academic journeys, as we need future research leaders within the profession while also contributing to the evidence base for health visiting interventions, practice, policy, education and innovation.
Health visitors are a highly skilled workforce who could contribute to the national research agenda. I have participated in a film made by the NIHR Nursing and Midwifery Incubator to encourage other nurses and health visitors to consider a clinical academic career. This is the first of four ‘Nurse and Midwife Research Champions’ short films made by the NIHR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmA0qkovl2I
This video was made while Sharin was working in a NHS Trust, before she joined the iHV.
In this video, Dr Sharin Baldwin explains: why they became a nurse and midwife; key moments in their career; how they discovered the NIHR clinical academy research pathway; who supported them to pursue a research career; challenges faced and how overcome; and much more.
iHV Research Network
We have a fantastic iHV Research Network, open to all members who:
- are interested in research in health visiting practice
- would like to connect with other health visitors who are active in research to share learning
- want to find out about support to become involved in research
Our next Research Networking event is on 27 March, 09:30-11:30
To find out more about research funding opportunities please visit: https://ihv.org.uk/our-work/research/research-funding-opportunities/
To find out more about NIHR Research Champions at: www.nihr.ac.uk/patients-carers-and-the-public/i-want-to-help-with-research/research-champions.htm
Dr Sharin Baldwin, Senior Health Visitor Research Lead at iHV
- NHS England (2021) Making research matter: Chief Nursing Officer for England’s strategic plan for research. https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/making-research-matter-chief-nursing-officer-for-englands-strategic-plan-for-research/
- NHS Digital (2023) NHS workforce statistics. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/nhs-workforce-statistics
- National Institute for Health Research (2024) RfPB Under-represented disciplines and specialisms highlight notice: Nurses and Midwives – Call Specification. https://www.nihr.ac.uk/documents/rfpb-under-represented-disciplines-and-specialisms-highlight-notice-nurses-and-midwives-call-specification-stage-1/32050
- Nursing and Midwifery Council (2022) Standards of proficiency for specialist community public health nurses. https://www.nmc.org.uk/standards/standards-for-post-registration/standards-of-proficiency-for-specialist-community-public-health-nurses2/