The Researcher, edition 4

Writing Right in Wrightington... a true story fromDr JaneMartindale

Unexpected Outcomes!

Gillian Southgate, Director of Collaboration and Communications at NHS R&D NW tells us how her role transformed into the dream job.

This is not based upon a true story. It is one. It is a tale of a brave hero who embarks upon an epic journey. Her quest is not to kill a dragon but to conquer the demon within. A gargantuan task that had been dogging her down with doubt since Day One. And the name of this demon? Seven syllables that strike fear into the heart of any healthcare researcher, the “Ethics application form”. Now you may think, she filled in a form about Patient and Public Involvement, so what? Then let me remind you of that one killer question we all know and dread, “Describe your PPI involvement”. Cue the music of doom, Dum Dum Daaaargh! So what’s a gal to do? Tell them the truth or what they’d like to hear? Pay lip service or dig deep in the soul? What would you do? What short cuts would you take? To get your project through? We all know that gnarly question Ethics rightly ask. It’s their job. The clue’s in the title (Ethics!) But while the request is deceptively simple, it’s a depth charge. It explodes deep below ground at the core of your research and if your foundation isn’t solid, the cracks it reveals can bring the whole thing tumbling down. For Jane, this particular question opened up a rich seam of doubt. Her road to research was a scenic one and though she is remarkably good at her job, the challenge of describing it, in NHS language, sent her into a spin. She desperately needed help. Jane found it in INVOLVE, a national advisory group that promotes PPI. With their support and resources, Jane was able to arm herself with knowledge and allow her ideas to grow. Jane’s dream? That her Trust would one day have its own dedicated PPI group. While that might not sound like a Hollywood blockbuster, for Jane it was bold. There wasn’t a manual so Jane had to write one, which meant entering the labyrinth of governance and CRB checks. Jane then faced the Herculean task of a creating a bespoke training package armed with

Let me start with “I love health research!’ I don’t do research but I read it, use it, help other people do it, share it, promote it, shout about it and generally act as PR agent for health research. Check out my Twitter account @gillianSouthga1 Like most people I didn’t plan to get to where I am in my career, it all came about through serendipity - well redundancy, unemployment and a bit of good luck actually. A long time ago I was a clinical manager for a regional service that was unceremoniously shut down and I and most of my team were made redundant. After a series of locum jobs and a foray into the world of small business I was invited to temporarily support the regional R&D team at the North West Strategic Health Authority (NWSHA.) In need of some funds to supplement the coffers I happily committed my services but was unprepared for the turmoil of an SHA that was shutting down! My first few weeks were hard, very hard. I cried on the phone to my family at lunchtimes and just wanted to run away. However, not being a quitter I persevered for a few more months doing my best to support the team and the wider R&D groups until we emerged into the new post SHA world. This was the transformational point for me, from chrysalis to butterfly (sounds dramatic but true, ask my colleagues!). Suddenly I felt my passion for good collaboration, creative communication and the need to nurture fledgling researchers start to overflow and the job of nightmares became the job of dreams. Obviously I still have the odd off day, nothings perfect, but generally over the last 5 years I have been able to work with some amazing people, (Etienne Wenger and Margaret Wheatley come to mind) and bang the health research drum wherever

I have been allowed to and some places where I’ve not! Who would have thought that a temporary part time job would have evolved into something so good! Sometimes you can’t predict the outcome.

only tea and cake. As time went by, Jane found her feet (they had been at the end of her legs all along) and gradually confidence grew. Slowly, steadily and with the occasional falter, Jane’s fledgling PPI group grew from seed to seedling, from sapling into oak.

Jane’s aim this year is to grow the group in numbers and broaden expertise. Where once there was one tree, soon there’ll be many. And they are already beginning to bear fruit. Jane and her team now have a dedicated webpage and video that now resides on a national website.

by Jane Martindale

by Gillian Southgate

Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist / Therapy Research Lead Wrightington Wigan & Leigh NHS FT

Gillian is the Director of Collaboration and Communication for the NHS Research and Development North West team.

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