Case study

Research associate and staff nurse — Dana Sammut

As well as working as a staff nurse at a local hospital, Dana also carries out research into issues of abuse and violence. Find out more about how she has developed a career as a research associate

What degree did you study?

I graduated with an Adult Nursing (BNurs) from the University of Birmingham in 2018.

How did you get your job?

Shortly after graduating, I applied for an advertised job as a teaching associate (0.5 full-time equivalent) at the University of Birmingham. The job involved both teaching and research, and I worked in this role for two years alongside my clinical role as an adult nurse (band 5).

The university contract ended after two years, after which time a colleague in the School of Nursing approach me to ask if I could undertake further work on a separate research project, which is my current role.

What's a typical working day like?

My current project is a library-based study so I work from home. I manage my own time and attend virtual meetings with the team to catch up as needed. Previous projects I have worked on involved collecting primary data (for example, through focus groups), so my typical working day would vary depending on the project I was working on.

I also work separately as a staff nurse on bank contracts at a local hospital and hospice.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy research and being able to read and learn about subjects that interest me. I also feel strongly about the importance of the work I am involved in, which focuses on issues of violence and abuse, and feel proud to contribute to projects that can effect change in practice.

What are the challenges?

Working from home can be a bit lonely. I used to enjoy sharing an office space with colleagues at the university, or even going to local libraries and coffee shops with my laptop to work. However, video communication platforms have been invaluable, and it is reassuring to know that my colleagues are only an email away.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My original role as a teaching associate was advertised to recently graduated nurses, so my degree was essential. The research skills I gained from my degree, and particularly my dissertation, also provided an important foundation for me to build upon.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My roles as a teaching and research associate (and importantly, my supportive supervisors at the university) have provided me with valuable opportunities to develop my skills and confidence as a researcher. The flexibility of my role has required me to adapt quickly as new challenges arise, and I have been able to do things that I never imagined myself doing - for example, delivering a lecture to a large cohort and presenting at an international conference.

It is my goal to complete a PhD and continue working in the area of violence and abuse.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Look out for opportunities, even in a voluntary capacity, to gain experience in the area you are interested in. It might be worth looking into the research being undertaken at a local university, or contacting a member of academic staff at the university where you studied, to see if there are any projects you could get involved with.
  • A Masters degree is a helpful (and often essential) step for anyone looking to pursue a career in research.
  • There are opportunities available for clinical staff who want to undertake research training while maintaining clinical practice - for example, the integrated clinical academic (ICA) programme.

Find out more

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