Hello, my name is Linda Tinkler and I am the Trust lead for Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals (NMAHP) Research at Newcastle Hospitals.
At present, you could say I am a Clinical Academic Nurse Leader, with over 20 years’ experience across the NHS and Industry sector.
My current NHS role revolves around facilitating and developing research capacity and capability within our NMAHP professions here in Newcastle.
Mentorship, support and guidance
My Trust role is extremely varied which is one of the things that I love. It means I spend most of my time providing support, mentorship, and signposting to individual clinicians, whilst also developing and leading on trust wide policies and infrastructure. Everything that I do is aimed at supporting our NMAHPs who are interested in or already leading their own research to impact on patient care.
Research wasn’t actually something I planned as a career. I started out as a care assistant in a small residential nursing home at the age of 17 moving into the NHS as a health care assistant a year later. I hadn’t left school with enough GCSEs to go straight into my nurse training, so I completed an access to health course on an evening whilst working full time, to enable me to apply to university.
I was lucky enough to be seconded into my nurse training as part of the first cohort of degree qualified nurses at the University of Teesside, qualifying in 2003. I absolutely loved the research and ethics related modules, including my dissertation during my undergraduate training, much to the amusement of some of my fellow students at the time!
Broadening my research experience
After qualifying, I worked in a few different clinical areas, including a couple of years in the medical equipment industry after which I applied for a community research nurse post in South Tyneside in 2009. This post allowed me to work on and deliver research being conducted in patients’ own homes and through GP practices. In early 2013 I took up a clinical research nurse post at Darlington Memorial Hospital which broadened my research experience further into secondary care.
Around the same time, the opportunity to apply for an NIHR fellowship scheme came up (known as the CAT – Clinical Academic Training – scheme at the time) and I applied to complete a funded Masters, part time through Newcastle University.
If at first you don’t succeed…
I was unsuccessful first time, but learnt from the panel’s feedback – to be more confident and to work on my imposter syndrome – and whilst waiting for the next call for applications, completed another university Master’s module and took a part-time secondment in the local NIHR Clinical Research Network for 12 weeks to develop my managerial skills. I then reapplied the following year and went into the interview feeling more confident.
I began the Master’s in September 2014 which was an accelerated programme where three years of the programme were squeezed into two. All the while I was still working clinically. These were two of the toughest but most rewarding years of my career so far. As the months went by, I learned so much more about research, and started to design my own research proposal before turning it into an actual project.
I graduated from my Master’s in December of 2016. A year later I was delighted to be awarded a Florence Nightingale Foundation scholarship to enable me to develop my knowledge and leadership skills. During this time I was also able to continue my research at another NHS Trust with funded support.
During this time, I also spent a lot of energy and time, well outside of my comfort zone, engaging with a range of other researchers in the same field I was exploring, to build a team to formulate an application to the December 2017 round of the NIHR’s Doctoral Research Fellowship.
Ultimately – and very disappointingly at the time – this was unsuccessful. However, I went off to the RCN International Nursing Research Conference in early 2018, where I was presenting the results of my second study. At the conference, the Strategic Research Alliance between the RCN and The University of Sheffield was launched. I sought advice and was encouraged to apply and was interviewed for this on my 40th birthday whilst dressed up to go to a wedding that afternoon! Amazingly, this time I was successful!
A wearer of many hats!
I now find myself wearing 2 hats: one as an NHS lead responsible for the research capacity building agenda for NMAHPs, and one as a PhD fellow, exploring relationships at the interface between clinical research delivery and clinical service delivery in the NHS!
So, if you are just starting out and wondering where to begin, how to get more involved in research, or even just wondering what on earth research is all about… just be bold, explore and ask questions.
There is a huge amount of support and guidance out there and a growing community who would love to welcome you and help you on your way, both here at the trust and beyond. I look forward to speaking to you soon as if I can do it…. You certainly can!