A day in the life of…a Clinical Nursing Professor

In the third blog of our ‘day in the life of…’ series, Catherine Paterson, a Professor and Clinical Chair in Nursing at University of Canberra, Australia talks about her current role and career journey in clinical academic nursing research.

(1) What is your job title and your main role/responsibilities?
My nursing title is a Professor in Nursing, Clinical Chair in which my position is jointly funded by the University of Canberra and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Health. I am very honoured and privileged to have this role to support clinical academic nurses in their career development. The focus of this role is on leading and facilitating nursing research, building the capacity of nursing clinicians in engaging with research, translating research evidence into clinical practice and supporting nursing innovations by: 1) advancing a research culture which fosters productive research focused relationships between the university and health services, 2) advocating for and supporting nursing led research and practice innovations by building evidence based practice, 3) drawing on health services and research knowledge to contribute towards clinical service design, service innovations and strategic directions, 4) leading the development of research projects, funding submissions and high-quality publications and, 5) supervising activities that promote the expansion of capacity and capability for clinical academic nursing careers.

(2) How did you get into your current role/line of work?
I always wanted to be a nurse since I was four years old. I commenced my professional career in 2004 as a Registered Nurse. Within the first two years of qualifying, I transitioned to working in a clinical and research focused dual role and transitioned my career trajectory to focus on uro-oncology in 2006. I completed my academic studies to attain a Master of Nursing in 2007 (with Distinction). I was then awarded competitive funding for a full-time PhD scholarship which focused on prostate cancer care (during which time I had a lovely surprise with my second pregnancy – my children are 18 months apart).

When I completed my PhD in 2013 there were few and far between clinical and academic nursing roles, so I had to be creative and develop a role in cancer care. I negotiated funding across two organisations for a new pioneering role as a senior clinical academic prostate cancer specialist nurse in the UK. I absolutely loved this role. I had a significant contribution to the strategic development and implementation of evidence-based nurse led service delivery across three main hospitals in the northeast of Scotland. I was the lead in the Division of Cancer for the research theme related to cancer survivorship and supported early career researchers. I was working at an advanced level of practice in delivering a nurse led diagnostic service in relation to prostate biopsies, fiducial gold seed clinical for men requiring intensity modulated radiotherapy, and an advanced/metastatic prostate cancer clinic. I have since had an international re-allocation and still have my professional feet in both camps, both clinical and academic, as a Clinical Chair in Nursing.

(3) Can you tell us what a typical day in your nursing role involves?
No two days are the same for me. As a Clinical Chair in Nursing, I need to be dynamic and respond to the University and Health Services priorities. I am involved with teaching, learning and assessment for both undergraduate and post-graduate nursing courses, research and supporting innovations in clinical practice. Typically, I have meetings to attend at the hospital, nursing school and wider university level. I try to write every day. I can honestly say that I never see my role as a job or a typical day. More a way of life – a nursing ethos to ensure that my daily contributions are kind, caring and supportive of others to help them reach their full potential in research.

(4) What would you say are the ‘best’ or most rewarding parts of your role?
There are so many rewarding aspects to my role, it is hard to choose. Probably, the best, more rewarding aspect is seeing nurses grow in research confidence, capability, and competence in their skills from novice to expert. I am so proud of all the nurses who I mentor. Recently, two very early career nurses (one clinical nurse with no experience of research at all, and the other who was a second-year student nurse) both had their abstracts accepted for national cancer congress meetings, both accepted for podium presentations, and both, have had their research papers accepted in a top quartile journal (impact 3.7). That is very rewarding and brings a big smile to me.

(5) What advice would you give to others who would like to work in a similar nursing role?
As nurses we provide approximately 80% of all direct hands-on patient care. So, we know as a profession the important clinical research questions about what matters most to the patients and families that we are honoured and privileged to care for. We can only deliver the best care through high quality evidence. My advice is to seek out a nursing research leader in your clinical field. They will absolutely want to support you because we need more clinical academic nurses internationally. Explore options such as Nursing Research Interns (these are 50% clinical: 50% research funded FTE roles), seek out clinical academic scholarships for small projects, or higher research degrees; these are some of the supports that we have developed here in the ACT. The other big aspect which needs attention is support for mid-career (Associate Professor/Reader) clinical academic nurses. We have pathways published but the funding to support these are not yet fully a reality on international landscapes. Believe in yourself, always be kind, caring and conduct your research with integrity and passion.

Catherine (@catheripaterson) is a Professor and Clinical Chair in Nursing at the Faculty of Health (@UCFacultyHealth) University of Canberra (@UniCanberra) and Canberra Health Services (@ACT_CHS), Australia.

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