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From the Frontline to Behind the Scenes: The transition from clinical to research roles.

Research Assistants Natasha Hill and Laura Williams reflect on their experiences of joining the AVATAR2 team at Kings College London after working as psychology assistants in a range of clinical settings.

What do you see as the key aspects of the role?

Well at the moment, working with the other research workers across the sites to get things ready to start recruiting in January! This includes planning assessments, presenting to teams we are hoping to recruit from, thinking about study promotion, e.g., planning the launch event, lots of great training, familiarising ourselves with assessment measures, lots of roleplays! An amazing part of the role is thinking about Participant/Patient Involvement (PPI) and peer researcher involvement. The study holds this in high importance which has been great to see.

What brought you to this job?

Coming from clinical roles, the opportunity to branch into research and get better insight into the development of the evidence-base was really exciting. It’s a very innovative and unique project, which is really cool. But also, having a special interest in treatments for psychosis was an even bigger pull to AVATAR2 and getting to explore this interest on a gold standard RCT was an opportunity too good to miss!

What does a day in the life of an RA look like for you at the moment?

Each day is different but generally always filled with some reading and journal discussion, training, presenting to local teams or getting materials ready for recruitment, and of course in the virtual world, MS Teams meetings! As a multi-site trial, the research workers work a lot together and even though it's all been through the laptop, one of the best parts of the job so far has been getting to know and work with such great colleagues.

What have you most enjoyed working on?

Something that has been really different and enjoyable about this role compared to clinical positions is being able to really think about the outcome measures we use, how they have been developed and why we use them. It adds such great context to what we’re doing and has highlighted how important it is to be aware of the rationale of why we use the tools we do.

In this phase we have had a lot of training from experts in the field, which has helped the learning curve feel less steep. We have both come from NHS Assistant Psychologist roles, where we have very much trained on the job, so having the time to really get to grips with what we will be doing has felt like a breath of fresh air. We are learning how important it is in research that every aspect could be replicated, so training has helped us be on the same page when we start assessments.

What do you feel you have learnt?

Tonnes! Coming from clinical roles, the transition to research has been a steep but really enjoyable learning curve. It’s been amazing to see just how much goes into running a gold standard trial and how committed everyone is to make the trial be the best, most rigorous, smooth version it can be.

What are you looking forward to?

Hitting the ground running in January! We’ll be kicking off with our launch event which will be a great way to spread the word about AVATAR2. We can’t wait to start receiving referrals and meeting with potential participants to put all the roleplays into practice!

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