This month’s blog we have Danielle Coombs and Martina Salib writing about bringing research and clinical practice together. They are both clinicians and PhD students at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, University of Sydney. Enjoy!
Is there such a thing as Clinician Researchers?
As clinicians, we encounter many different patients every day, each with a condition, accompanied by a unique story. We find our roles being stretched as new conditions are being diagnosed at a faster pace than treatment solutions are being created. We are still expected to provide an evidence-based service to our patients no matter how much or little the evidence tells us. We are constantly challenging our clinical reasoning; constantly siphoning through the information we get from guidelines, clinical experience, what we are told at the University, what our seniors clinicians tell us, current literature, and the list goes on. We try to piece all this (often conflicting) information together, sort out bias, and make a clinical judgement on what is best for each individual patient. Not to mention shared decision making with patients. We must juggle beneficence and science. The problem of translating research into practice is one we live every day. No wonder the gap between research and clinical practice is so big.
We both realised we had to change the way we were doing things, and made possible by the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, Sydney, we recently have begun our journey towards becoming Clinician Researchers. The institute has created ‘thinking-outside-the-box’ opportunities with the aim to improve research skills in clinicians and ultimately foster clinically important, high quality research. The opportunity entails a scholarship for clinicians to reduce their full-time hours to part-time hours and to undertake a higher degree research, such as a PhD, in their remaining part-time hours. The divided time between research and clinical work has many advantages, however, being a double agent also comes with many challenges!
The advantage of having a dual role means that we can now work to answer clinically relevant research questions and integrate our research findings into clinical practice. We can improve patient care through the best evidence, and we can network with world-renowned leaders, who can mentor us throughout our research journey.
The challenge is falling into the trap that got us here in the first place. Albert Einstein once said that “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. For example, it is easy to make the mistake of taking off your clinician hat to put on you research hat or vice versa. Although there are many brilliant Clinician Researcher mentors in the field, segregation between the two roles seems to be the norm. We work towards uniting the two roles and hope to find ways that clinical research can be transformed, with the aim to close that gap that exists between clinical practice and best evidence.
So, for those out there considering a career as a Clinician Researcher, we think it will be worth it (it has been so far). We will let you know how we go!