Boundary spanning and identity work in the clinical research delivery workforce: a qualitative study of research nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in the National Health Service, United Kingdom
McNiven A., Boulton M., Locock L., Hinton L.
Background: Research nurses, midwives and allied health professionals are members of an important emergent profession delivering clinical research and, in the United Kingdom, have been the focus of considerable investment by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). This paper considers the experiences of research nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in relation to professional identity work, recognizing these are coproduced alongside others that they interact with (including patients, clinical staff and other research staff). Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 45 nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in the UK about their experiences of working in research delivery. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematically coded and analysed. Results: Our analysis highlights how research nurses, midwives and allied health professionals adjust to new roles, shift their professional identities and undertake identity work using uniforms, name badges and job titles as they negotiate complex identities. Conclusions: Research nurses, midwives and allied health professionals experience considerable challenges as they enter and transition to a research delivery role, with implications for their sense of professional identities. A change in the work that they undertake and how they are (or perceive they are) viewed by others (including clinical non-research colleagues and patients) has implications for their sense of professional and individual identity. The tensions involved extend to their views on symbols of professional identity, such as uniforms, and as they seek to articulate and demonstrate the value of their conjoined role in research and as a healthcare professional, within the unfolding landscape of health research. We embed our study findings in the context of the newly emerging clinical research practitioner workforce, which further exacerbates and complicates the role and identity complexity for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in research delivery.