Why did you decide to set up a trainee-led research network?


Our primary aim was to provide trainees with opportunities. In our experience it has been very difficult for us trainees to become involved with clinical research and high-impact audit during our training. This is predominantly due to the migratory nature of our placements and the short periods spent working at one particular site. Clinical research is costly in both time and expertise and is therefore very difficult for trainees to access. I was always aware that within our region there were a number of consultants with the knowledge and credentials required to make any research project a success, but it often seemed to be luck if you were in the right place at the right time to become involved with their work or get their help and support. Clinical research studies are also growing in size to provide adequate power and answer questions with good, clinically relevant, 'hard' outcomes. To conduct studies that meet these criteria and therefore attract grant funding, collaboration between multiple people and multiple centres is needed. It became obvious to me that a trainee research and audit group could be the answer to many of these problems; it would allow us to be involved in the same projects as we move from centre to centre around our region, it would enable us to gain the mentorship of experienced, pro-active consultants skilled in clinical research as they join our committee and trust leadership teams, and it would allow us to undertake large scale projects that could answer clinically relevant research or audit questions and thereby attract grant funding and produce results that could really influence patient care.


We were inspired by a presentation by the South West Anaesthesia Research Matrix (SWARM) earlier this year. A few of us have embarked on research in the last few years and have found the process, from organising funding to seeking Deanery approval, not to mention ethics and R&D registration, to be somewhat overwhelming. Those that have battled through felt that the knowledge and skills they had gained could be used to help others to avoid common pitfalls in undertaking research and higher degrees. The job market for anaesthetists is changing, certainly in our region, and there is a growing interest in CV boosting activities, such as quality improvement and research. The current system of six-month research posts, with limited ongoing involvement, has limited the ability of even the most enthusiastic trainees to undertake high quality, publishable, research. Involvement in Quality Improvement is compulsory, but trainees express frustration at the difficulties in organising follow up, loop-closing work, as they migrate around the region and lose track of projects as they go.

We've sought advice from our local surgical trainee research network, a well-established group who have secured NIHR funding and a number of peer-reviewed journal publications. West Midlands Research Collaborative act as a group representing a number of surgical sub-specialties, supporting projects catering to a range of interests. As such, we have decided to invite trainees from complementary specialties in order to maximise the potential for inter-disciplinary collaboration and to support projects by trainees with varied sub-specialty interests, including adult and paediatric intensive care, pre-hospital medicine and pain management.