Trainees are strongly encouraged to get involved in research of some kind, whether this is by conducting local projects that can be presented at meetings, completing research methods courses or conducting full time research as part of an MD or PhD. The NorthEast Thames rotation has a strong track record for supporting trainees to pursue PhDs and there are many research-active groups locally. At the bottom of this section is some specific advice for how to organise research within NorthEast Thames and some relevant contact details, dependant on your research interests.
Relevant to all trainees, Section 4.5 of the curriculum states:
“Research is central to the provision of high quality health care, contributing significantly to a culture of continuous improvement in quality, safety and clinical effectiveness. The Respiratory Medicine SAC considers properly supervised research to be an important component of training. It allows trainees to acquire and develop a whole range of skills including, in particular, the ability to think and reason critically and to appraise the literature. These are essential skills for any Consultant and a prerequisite for leading the implementation into practice of new developments in their specialty. In originating, planning, and executing a research project, the trainee will have the opportunity to develop and hone a range of other abilities, including leadership attributes, organisational skills, time management skills and presentation skills and will also learn about the economic and ethical aspects of research and practice. The role of research in developing professionalism in the trainee, and its benefits for the wider NHS, cannot be over-stated.”
All trainees must achieve research competencies. These can be achieved by:
There are a number of routes into research. Which one you should pursue will depend on your longterm career aims, your previous experience, and what opportunities currently exist. When it comes down to it, in order to do research you need money – both for your research costs and to pay your salary.
This is a multi-step process so plan as far ahead as possible. You should informally alert your TPD as soon as possible that you are considering OOPR. Once you have a supervisor and project confirmed you should formally request OOPR. If you are awaiting a funding decision then include the date you expect to hear the result, and whether this is essential for you going out. Please remember that you can only leave the programme in October or April and must give 6 months notice. Steps in applying for OOPR include:
Much of the paperwork is to ensure that you can ‘count’ part of your research time towards your CCT date. Once you have submitted all the forms the JRCPTB will submit applications to the Respiratory SAC for review of the research content including an indicative assessment of the amount of clinical credit (competence acquisition) which might be achieved. This is likely to be influenced by the nature of the research (eg entirely laboratory-based or strong clinical commitment), as well as duration (eg 12 month Masters, 2-year MD, 3-Year PhD). On approval by the SAC, the JRCPTB will advise the trainee and the deanery of the decision. The deanery/LETB will then make an application to the GMC for approval of the out of programme research. All applications for out of programme research must be prospectively approved. Therefore you must apply before your OOP starts, and the LETB will then apply to GMC for time to count.
Guidelines for amount of time to count:
Whilst you are out on OOPR it is wise to attend some training days to keep in touch with trainees, stay up to date with other areas of practice and stay up to date with changes to the curriculum and ARCP requirements. You must submit a research report each year to the ARCP panel and keep your TPD up to date on your plan to return to the programme. You may wish to attend a ‘returning to practice’ one day course – a great example is the course co-designed by Dr Sophie Vergnaud-Wiseman, which includes refreshers in ALS, and clinical specialities so you can return to the Med Reg on call rota with confidence.
Upon completion of the research period the competencies achieved will be agreed by the OOP Supervisor and the Educational Supervisor and communicated to the SAC, accessing the facilities available on the JRCPTB ePortfolio. The competencies achieved will determine the trainee’s position on return to programme; for example if an ST3 trainee obtains all ST4 competencies then 12 months will be recognised towards the minimum training time and the trainee will return to the programme at ST5. This would be corroborated by the subsequent ARCP.
Trainees need not count research experience or its clinical component towards a CCT programme if they do not wish to do so, but must decide whether or not they wish it to be counted on application to the deanery/LETB and the JRCPTB.
Up to 3 years out of programme is the accepted normal, but consideration of a longer period may need to be made on a case by case basis. The SAC will usually recognise up to 12 months of the OOPR as educational credit towards the minimum training time. However, it is the SAC’s prerogative to decide just how much educational credit should be granted. For OOPR that involves relevant clinical experience, additional educational credit of up to a further six months (ie total of 18 months) may be allowed on a case by case basis but, again, this is at the discretion of the SAC.
All trainees not wishing to undertake a higher research degree should undertake supervised research during their clinical training and should also consider attending a course on research methodology. The ARCP decision aid, section 5.5 details the requirements as:
All trainees should demonstrate understanding of research principles and methodology and also of statistical methodology. They should be able to show that they are able to critically appraise research literature, including both individual research papers and systematic reviews. One way to assess the attainment of such skills is by the production of short papers and/or case reports. Another is via an assessed course on research methodology. Trainees with an interest in medical education can be encouraged to undertake research in teaching methodology (see Teaching and Training).
Good places to start which will help you read and critically appraise research papers of all types, are the series of articles written by Trisha Greenhalgh for the BMJ (also available as a book), and various authors for JAMA. The best thing to do is google “BMJ How to read a paper” and “JAMA Users’ guide to the medical literature”. Examples are:
In addition, and helpful if you are presenting at a journal club, are a number of structured checklists to guide you through appraising specific types of study/paper such as a cohort study, an RCT, an economic evaluation, or a systematic review. These are free, on the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme site.
If you’re thinking of applying for OOPR and want some advice from current trainees, these people are happy to be contacted:
Chatting informally after training days will also often give you an insight into the research groups in our region and the type of work that current trainees are involved in.
Top tips from trainees include:
Programmes/sites to make your research/life easier:
Professor Jerry Brown has provided some additional information on: the benefits of doing research; the practicalities of arranging research; considerations in choosing a supervisor and project; funding opportunities; and information on research active groups within NorthEast Thames, which you can download here: How to Organise Research.
Also, please read our ‘spotlight on research’ post.
Potential research opportunities at UCL in interstitial lung disease, lung cancer, lung infection, and airways disease. UCL Respiratory can offer research opportunities for clinical, translational or basic science research projects into a wide variety of lung diseases, including interstitial lung disease, pulmonary oncology, bronchiectasis, pneumonia, COPD and asthma. UCL Respiratory has an excellent record in obtaining clinical training fellowships from the MRC and Wellcome Trust (approx. 70 – 80% success rate) and providing a high quality research environment for clinical academics.
If you are interested in doing a period of research and perhaps applying for PhD training fellowships, please contact Professors Rachel Chambers (ILD, email@example.com), Sam Janes (pulmonary oncology, firstname.lastname@example.org), or Jerry Brown (bronchiectasis, airways disease, lung infection, email@example.com) so you can discuss further what opportunities there are at UCL.