Dr Alexander is a Clinical Academic within the therapy department of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (ICHT) and Adjunct Reader at Imperial College London. She will lead on supporting therapies staff who want to do research at ICHT.
Maxine Myers caught up with Dr Alexander following her appointment.
1) What does you role involve?
There are many different aspects to my role such as conducting research, supervising students and treating patients in the clinic. A key aspect of my new role is to ensure that therapists are research aware, prepared and active. This means equipping our clinicians with the skills needed to apply research literature to their clinical practice, helping staff who want to do research with grant applications and supporting them at each stage of their clinical academic careers.
Providing education and training opportunities for wider clinical staff is an important mission of Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC).
2) As Lead Clinical Academic for Therapies what are your plans?
A long-term goal of mine is for staff to feel that they have the relevant skills to appraise new research evidence effectively so they can judge whether to integrate it into their practice. I would also like staff to see that specialising in research as a career choice that can be considered alongside other clinical specialisms.
In my experience, some members of staff tend not to think about including research as part of their future career plans. I want to encourage them to see training as a clinical academic as a real possibility, just like training in other specialist areas.
I would also like to have clinical academics integrated into teams so staff can see the role in practice, understand how it can impact patient care and how the role differs to jobs that they are more familiar with.
3) What research support is currently available to staff?
We are offering a wide range of support to our staff who want to do research.
We hold regular workshops and training sessions that focus on the key skills and attributes that are needed for a research career.
We also have a number of upcoming events which enable our staff to talk to their peers engaged in research as well as learn more about the research activities and opportunities available to them. One example is the North West London Research Symposium on Wednesday 20 September for Nurses, Midwives, Allied Health Professions, Pharmacists and Healthcare Scientists.
Alongside this, we will be running a second clinical academic careers event in November after our first one was so well received
4) What are some of the lessons that you have learnt from doing your own research?
One of the lessons that I’ve learnt is that there are many transferable skills between research and clinical practice such as the ability to problem solve, think creatively and manage time efficiently. These skills are needed by clinicians and researchers alike.
5) How can patients benefit from the research work at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust?
Some of our research is already influencing how we deliver therapy services at ICHT. One of the projects we have worked on is treating patients with joint hypermobility, a condition where a person is particularly supple and able to move their limbs into positions others find impossible. Most people with the condition don’t have any problems but some patients can experience symptoms such as fatigue and pain in the joints. We found that strength training can reduce pain and help make muscles around the joints stronger. This is an encouraging and key finding that we are already putting into practice at a clinical level.
For more information on research support please contact the Clinical Academic Training Office (CATO), who delivers training and education opportunities for clinical staff as part of the AHSC.