Dipping my toe in to a clinical academic career: reflections of my Health Education England Internship

Greg Booth is a pain management and rehabilitation specialist physiotherapist at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. Here he shares his first steps to broaden his career into academia.

I am a senior pain management and rehabilitation physiotherapist at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in Stanmore, north London and have been in this position for nearly three and a half years.

 I work in a large multi-disciplinary team with a large agenda for evaluating and improving practice. Albeit we are a creative and innovative team; there is a lack of original research output.

Eighteen months ago, several colleagues and I started working on a project redeveloping the RNOH Active Back Programme; a 3 week residential back pain rehabilitation programme. Throughout this process I delved deep in to the most recent research evidence on treatment and rehabilitation approaches for persistent back pain, and created a new a clinical tool to guide the patients’ therapy. This is where my journey started.

Following this service improvement project I noticed a growth in my enthusiasm for research. I attended the “Becoming Research Active” one day workshop held by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) CLAHRC North Thames in May 2018. With the approval of my managers, I then successfully applied for the Health Education England (HEE) Internship hosted by St. George’s, University of London; the first step in the HEE/NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic Pathway

So, for a little over six months, I spent two days a week in an intern role and continued with my usual clinical role at RNOH the other 3 days. During this time, backfill was provided and I maintained my caseload, but did not take on new patients. My team were really supportive and interested in my progress through the programme and any insights or changes that could be beneficial to the team.  The intern role comprised of a day of lectures and a day of clinical research placements.  I completed two Masters modules ‘Research Methods’ and ‘Implementation and Improvement Science’ at St George’s. During the clinical research placements, I primarily worked with Professor Dylan Morrissey on the process evaluation of his Achilles Tendinopathy RCT. I also spent time visiting and networking with other academics, clinical academics and centres involved in leading high impact research.

The internship was an emotional rollercoaster, far more so than I imagined; from spending days full of energy and excitement whilst working and meeting with inspiring academics and clinical academics, to falling asleep at my desk (at home, not at work…) and being forced by my housemates to take a walk after staring at my laptop for hours on end writing essays, looking at data and planning/writing future applications. That is not to mention the usual, familiar challenge of managing my clinical caseload and responsibilities.

I learnt so much in 6 months; probably the most in any 6 month period of my career (so far). I have met with, networked with and discussed collaboration with many inspiring people. I have learnt not just about research, but also a lot about myself. Doing and learning about research has also made me a better, more confident clinician. Lastly, I have learnt the direction I want my career to go; and that’s improving the lives of patients by being a clinician who leads research.

Thanks for reading,


Twitter: @GregoryBooth

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