Imogen Sargent is Clinical Research Team Leader (Mental Health) at Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT). Imogen and her team have recently become Registered Clinical Research Practitioners after taking part in the pilot programme for the CRP Register. Now the CRP Accredited Register is open for others to apply, Imogen discusses the accreditation process and the benefits it has had on her team.
What is a Clinical Research Practitioner?
For so long it has been hard to explain what a Clinical Research Practitioner (CRP) does! Throughout my career I’ve been referred to as a research assistant or a researcher which is not my job. That is why the new accredited register is so great because it is the first step to acknowledging that a CRP is a professional role, and a skilled one as well.
A CRP’s skill set is broad and covers a wide range of roles within research delivery that have a patient facing element. We can support with a number of clinical tasks like ECGs or working on drug trials. In our trust CRPs work and lead on multiple drug trials. We have even gained consent on some drug trials where it does not need to be a Consultant Psychiatrist. We also work on psychological interventions, bloods and diagnostics, especially in Mental Health where we use quite a few standardised questionnaires to diagnose disorders or mental health conditions. A lot of the CRPs are trained to use diagnostic tools so they are able to for research purposes.
The road to registered accreditation
Before the wider launch of the CRP accreditation register, it went through a pilot process and myself and my colleagues put KMPT forward to take part. Myself and all of our delivery team are CRPs, except one OT and one nurse, so we thought we would be a good site to be involved. I felt strongly that it was an important project and wanted to be involved as much as I could.
To complete the applications we had to gather evidence on what we do as CRPs. We gathered documents to evidence how we have expanded boundaries, shown leadership in research, how we have delivered research and how what we do in our roles matches the scope of practice. Mapping it across to the NIHR Integrated Workforce Framework (IWF) and using that as a competency guide to look at how our competencies match.
Once submitted the AHSC’s verifiers, who have to be accredited professionals, review the applications. In March 2021 our whole team were signed off and one of my team members was the first one to be signed off ever, which was hugely exciting.
The whole process has been exciting and really inclusive of CRPs. It does not feel like a process that has been driven from the top down, they have involved CRPs from an early stage to help devise the scope of practise. I feel like the NIHR and AHSC have been supportive and have taken it seriously which has added to its success.
Why is accreditation important to CRPs?
Before I was always having to prove and explain myself when someone said “Who is going to do X, Y or Z” and I can say “I’m trained to do that”. It feels like a stepping stone towards people understanding the role. There is something about protecting the role through accreditation and providing a structure.
It is also important to see research as a career and I think the register means that people can progress and see the role of a CRP as a valid career path. People may have seen the clinical route as the only way into research but the new register is providing an alternate path with possibilities for growth and career progression.