Step into my shoes: The career of a Mental Health Research Nurse

Mental Health Research Nurse, Kaye Smith, tells us about her career journey...

I came upon the fascinating world of research quite by chance and when I had semi-retired from a forty-year career in mental health services.

I was then working part time in a fairly new clinical role in mental health and was asked if I would be interested in a one-year secondment opportunity to the Solent research team, and I went for it.

The secondment involved being trained by a York University study team to deliver a specialist intervention for patients with enduring mental health challenges, relevant to one of the biggest health challenges often faced by this patient group: giving up smoking. Patients often want to give up smoking for so many reasons but often lack the confidence, information, self-belief and support to even try. It was a great study and there was also a great deal of success for the participants.

The study was closely linked to the work I was already doing, so sparked my interest. I very much enjoyed the variety the study brought to my existing role.

When the secondment came to an end I decided to apply for a post within the research team and in this role I quickly expanded and built upon what I had already learned. There are so many facets to research – I’d had no idea and I realise now how limited my knowledge had been, therefore limiting something I could be offering patients.

If this was the case for me, was it the same for our patients?

Later, I applied for another research post with more responsibility and scope, increasing my working hours, with no regrets.

One of the things I enjoy most is being able to offer patients the opportunity to get involved in research, for them to know what research does and can do for future generations and how relevant and rewarding taking part in studies can be.  Some patients and staff have forged a great working relationship with our team and some patients have become Patient and Public Involvement representatives, working alongside us, helping develop the team/service, attending meetings and conferences. Their contribution is crucial.

The team here is knowledgeable, friendly and approachable. They would welcome anyone interested in knowing more, to take advantage of an opportunity to shadow us in our roles or simply meet to discuss what we do.    

About the author

I am an Adult Mental Health Research Nurse at the Academy of Research and Improvement. My responsibilities include introducing suitable Adult Mental Health studies for the Trust to deliver, liaising with the clinical teams and consenting patients and staff onto them. What is crucially important about this is that I am supporting staff to enable their patients (and also staff themselves) to have the opportunity to take part in research.

I am also a registered mental health nurse and have worked in clinical settings for many years, both as clinician and clinical manager.