Top 5 tips for Starting Research and Audit

Newcastle-upon-Tyne NHS Trust, Consultant Sonographer Ben Stenberg, has kindly shared his 5 top tips for Starting Research and Audit.

Research and audit can seem like a daunting prospect, but it is an important part of our profession and something we have a professional duty to engage in. Here are a few top tips to those who are just starting out with this side of our profession.

1. Choose something you are interested in and that will make a difference

This is the very first thing you are going to do, think about the topic of your audit or research piece. This is obvious but it makes such a difference to the project if it is something you want to do and are interested in the results. Some projects take days, others take years and these longer ones can be difficult to maintain enthusiasm if you are not particularly interested in what you find. Tied into this is whether the results will mean anything. It is more engaging to do research and audit on something that might result in a change or even a confirmation that what you are doing is correct or high quality rather than feel you’re wasting your time and doing a project just for the sake of it.

2. Start small

If you have not done much research before, it is a good idea to start small. Not all research has to be in line to win a Nobel prize or change the whole world. To get to grips with the process it is a good idea to do something manageable to begin with such as comparing a particular local protocol with national guidance (or a neighbouring Trust), DVT scanning for example, or waiting times for inpatient scans. This is relatively quick to do and requires minimum fuss in setting up and can still be useful in informing your practice.

3. Engage your colleagues

A problem shared is a problem halved! Keep your colleagues in the loop and they might help you with ideas for the project, collecting data or giving you some time to do some number crunching. You never know, unbeknownst to you, one of your colleagues might be a stats wizard and end up an invaluable resource. In my experience people are usually very keen to be involved inside and outside radiology, especially if you dangle a co-author of the audit, poster or written paper in front of them.

4. Use opportunities to get time and money

Don’t let the lack of money stop you. Trusts are not the only ones with educational budgets. If the trust doesn’t want to pay for your research, try ultrasound or medical device companies, charities and professional bodies. These all have educational funds (Including BMUS!) and some really struggle get enough applicants to spend it, so write a few begging letters or grant applications and you might find you get your research funded, maybe even your time paid for and who knows maybe your MSc or even PhD course fees. You don’t know until you ask. Check out BMUS pump priming fund (LINK).

5. Disseminate the results

It is always a shame when somebody does all the hard work investigating a problem or highlighting good practice and then doesn’t tell anyone about it. There are lots of people out there who want to hear about your work. Use local audit or educational meeting to start with but regional and national (or even international) meetings will want to hear about it so put in an abstract somewhere and spread the word. Remember, if you are shy, it doesn’t have to be an oral presentation, just do it as a poster.