Nikki Cotterill on how CLAHRC West has helped her career develop

19 October 2018

Dr Nikki Cotterill has been working at CLAHRC West as Post-Doc Nurse Fellow in Continence Care. She has just been made Associate Professor in Continence Care. Here she describes how her career has developed.

I’m a qualified nurse and have worked in continence research since 2003. I completed my PhD in 2009 at the Bristol Urological Institute, North Bristol NHS Trust. It focused on patient-centred evaluation of faecal incontinence and its impact on quality of life.

I remained in the NHS and wanted to continue my career in continence research, but there wasn’t really an obvious career path open to me. But I was lucky to work in a research institute that supported my aspirations, so I was able to apply for a Junior Fellowship supported by the Multiple Sclerosis Society. This enabled me to pursue a programme of research to investigate incontinence associated with Multiple Sclerosis.

During my time in this post, I developed my research leadership skills and became convinced that I should pursue a nursing academic research career. Importantly, I wanted to maintain my clinical links but recognised the need to develop my academic links in order to develop such a role.

Then I secured the Post-Doc Fellowship, jointly funded by NIHR CLAHRC West and the University of the West of England’s Centre for Health and Clinical Research (CHCR), to pursue opportunities to develop a programme of continence care research.

I had an excellent foundation at the Bristol Urological Institute and continued to combine this with my new role. The Post-Doc Fellowship provided the perfect platform to develop personally and professionally, to take my career to the next level.

This role gave me the opportunity to be mentored by clinical nursing academics, as well as offering training opportunities both locally and nationally. It allowed me to develop a broader academic network to complement my well established clinical networks, and build a broader research team to pursue funding opportunities. I was even able to set up a patient and public panel to drive and support continence research. I successfully secured grant funding to start building a robust programme of continence care research.

Then the Associate Professor in Continence Care post came up, and I was delighted to be appointed. This gives me a secure springboard to build on all the excellent foundations of my career in the NHS, UWE and CLAHRC West.

I am passionate about championing clinical academic careers for nurses and allied health professionals. With my history at North Bristol NHS Trust, there is now a focus on developing a clinical academic career pathway for the non-medical healthcare workforce and, with increasing opportunities for NIHR clinical academic funding, the future is bright.