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Free online learning aimed at health professionals with ambitions to pursue research

by Emily Roberts
26 June 2023

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Almost £1m has been invested by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to create a new e-learning programme that could benefit practitioners working in GP practices interested in a research career.

The programme has been designed for health professionals aspiring to be researchers, even if they have no little or no research experience so far, with funding allocated to eight UK colleges.

These include several colleges that have practitioners working in primary care: The Royal Pharmaceutical Society; Royal College of Nursing, working in partnership with King’s College London; and Royal College of Emergency Medicine, working in partnership with the College of Paramedics.

The online modules are free to use and flexible.

It is the first time NIHR and the colleges have collaborated on a shared project of this kind, which aims to improve the clinical research awareness, knowledge, and skills of health professionals.

Each college has used the funding award to work with its own partners to deliver a selection of modules, designed for each college’s target population and pitched at an introductory level for those with limited research experience.

For example, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine offers a module on leadership in emergency care research.

Participants can access the free modules anytime online and complete them at their own pace, enabling them to fit learning around day-to-day workloads and other responsibilities. They are also open access, with no application or membership of a college needed. And there is no stipulated end date, so users can complete the modules at their own pace.

The modules will be launched in phases by each college over the next 12 months and be available through the NIHR Learn platform.

Gareth O’Brien, senior programme manager at the NIHR Academy, said: ‘NIHR is aware that there is a clear need to address the research learning needs of those who currently report gaps in their research skills.

‘By working with the colleges, this new e-learning programme will meet this need, with a flexible selection of modules developed to enable people to feel more confident to engage with research and research opportunities.’

The other partnering colleges are the Royal College of Physicians; Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists working in partnership with the University of Birmingham; Royal College of Psychiatrists; Royal College of Surgeons of England; and College of Optometrists working in partnership with Ulster University.