The changing paradigm of research delivery during a pandemic – a reflective account
Evidence and practice    

The changing paradigm of research delivery during a pandemic – a reflective account

Claire L Whitehouse Senior nurse for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions research, The James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Nursing Quality and Safety, Gorleston-on-Sea, England
Clair Harris Head of research workforce (nursing, AHP and practitioners), Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, England
Paul Charlton NIHR patient research champion, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, London, England
Naomi Hare Research matron, Guy’s and Saint Thomas’ Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To understand how clinical research nurse leaders within two NHS organisations responded to the pandemic

  • To gain an insight into how knowledge from previous experience held intuitively was urgently and explicitly transformed into codified learning

  • To appreciate how a compassionate leadership approach to the workforce enabled urgent clinical research during a crisis

Background As clinical pressures evolved amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of research activity came to the forefront of health and care service requirements.

Aim To illustrate through reflection the experiences of clinical research teams based in the UK during the pandemic.

Discussion The article describes operational experiences in different settings and reflects on important themes and implications for future practice. The authors use a reflective model to share perspectives of leading research delivery roles in geographically and organisationally different settings. A patient’s perspective was included from the outset of the reflective process. Delegates at an interactive masterclass conference in April 2021 also contributed their experiences. Seven themes characterise the research teams’ response to the pandemic: prioritising, team-building, protection, limitation of autonomy, reduced bureaucracy, collaboration and transformation of process. Balance through compassionate leadership underpinned by ethically grounded decision-making was a theme throughout.

Conclusion Implicitly held, tacit knowledge progressed to explicit knowledge, formalising the research teams’ responses to the pandemic partly into codified learning. The authors characterise the experience as an ‘operational balancing act’, whereby significant innovations were integrated into working practices and research delivery.

Implications for practice The pandemic demonstrated what research progress is possible when all resources are diverted to one novel virus. The value of research teams was elevated through treatment and vaccine trials and the contribution of those involved to patient care. This reinforces an invigorated commitment to resources as well as new acceptance of and belief in research as a core care activity across and throughout systems and organisations at all levels.

Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2022.e1832

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Whitehouse CL, Harris C, Charlton P et al (2022) The changing paradigm of research delivery during a pandemic – a reflective account. Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2022.e1832


The authors would like to thank: all delegates at the 2021 RCN conference who participated in the masterclass interactivity; the clinical research teams at the author sites; all patients who have participated in research activity; Sarah Daniels; and The James Paget University Hospitals. Claire Whitehouse and Naomi Hare are National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) senior nurse research leaders. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care

Published online: 12 May 2022

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