Enablers and barriers to progressing a clinical academic career in nursing, midwifery and allied health professions: a cross-sectional survey

on 21 April 2021

This study was funded to the University of Southampton by Health Education England (HEE) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Aims and objectives

This study aimed to understand the routes by which nurses, midwives and allied health professionals (NMAHPs) pursue and sustain a research career and the enablers and barriers to career progression.


Robust evidence is central to practice and professional decision making of NMAHPs, with generation and translation of research arguably best led by those clinically active. Whilst countries like the UK and USA have fellowship schemes to support research career development, anecdotal reports suggest barriers exist in translating these opportunities into sustainable clinical academic careers.


An online questionnaire addressing career choices, facilitators/barriers and support was emailed to 1074 past applicants (doctoral and post‐doctoral) to National Institute of Health Research fellowship schemes (awarded and rejected) in England between March and May 2017; 231 responded (25.6%). Study reporting adheres to STROBE checklist.


Overall, 134 doctoral and 96 post‐doctoral applicants participated; two‐thirds were from allied health professions. Most were early in their research career.

Interest in research was most frequently sparked by interaction with people in research positions. Nearly half had their first research experience during their BSc project; though less often for nurses/midwives/health visitors (37.5%) than other NMAHPs (51.6%).

The award of a fellowship resulted in higher likelihood of being research‐active (doctoral level). Nearly three quarters pursuing a clinical academic career indicated ‘clearer career paths’ and ‘greater integration across clinical and academic departments’ were desirable. Most common barriers related to research roles, availability of positions and funding.

More information and outcomes of the study can be found on Wiley Online Library here.