Research training is an essential component in creating a high quality specialist workforce for Intensive Care Medicine (ICM). The Health and Social Care Act (2012) identifies research as a core responsibility of the NHS both in its delivery and the need to adhere to evidence based practice. Clinical research is the single most important way in which we improve our healthcare – by identifying the best means to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions. Evidence shows that research-active hospitals and departments have better patient outcomes. Academic activity within ICM can contribute to high quality recruitment to the specialty, enrich the professional lives of trained clinicians, and ensure continuous improvement of the care that we deliver.
The GMC position statement on normalising the place of research in the workplace is unequivocal. The 2021 ICM curriculum comprises fourteen Higher Level Learning Outcomes (HiLLOs). HiLLO 3 relates directly to research: an ICM specialist will know how to undertake medical research including the ethical considerations, methodology and how to manage and interpret data appropriately. It details how understanding of the principles of research, its interpretation, and the safe implementation of evidenced based new methods, processes and techniques are essential for the modern, progressive practice of ICM and in the interests of patients and the service.
All doctors in ICM training with an interest in research should be encouraged to consider the NIHR Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme. This scheme was launched through the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to allow all health care practitioners the opportunity to develop the skills required to run NIHR studies. Working alongside established PI provides a unique opportunity for doctors in training to acquire knowledge of the day to day running of research studies within their existing training programmes.
Special Skills Year
The Academic Special Skills Year (SSY) is open to doctors pursuing a single CCT in ICM. An academic SSY is of direct relevance to ICM practice and of benefit to the service and patient care. The academic SSY module provides doctors in training with an opportunity to develop future clinical academics. During this year, doctors in training must continue to develop their patient-orientated intensive care skills and they should continue with a substantial clinical workload. The broad objectives of the module are to allow doctors to gain an understanding of research within the context of the National Health Service, to gain insight into clinical trial design and management, to understand the regulatory environment in which research is conducted, engage with NIHR portfolio research and to formulate a focused research question, undertake a systematic comprehensive literature search and be able to critically appraise the literature in addition to having a solid grounding in medical statistics. . All proposed SSYs require the endorsement by the local ICM Regional Advisor and ICM Training Programme Director.
Doctors in ICM training who aspire to a formal clinical academic career will undertake a longer period of research, typically leading to a doctoral fellowship. A doctoral fellowship needs considerable preparation and is usually preceded by a period of initial training which allows them to acquire key research skills, pilot data and regulatory approvals to support any doctoral funding applications. The academic SSY allows doctors in training the time to prepare for this application.