International Women’s Day 2023 - Laura Barker

Laura Barker is a senior research nurse based at Harefield Hospital where she supports a host of respiratory and cardiovascular research projects.

We spoke with her to find out more about her role.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role.

My first role was as healthcare assistant at Harefield Hospital back in 2002. At the time I was given the opportunity to undertake my nurse training and I qualified in 2006, returning to Harefield Hospital as a registered nurse to specialise in cardio-respiratory nursing.

In 2010 I went to work for Imperial College London at Charing Cross Hospital as a research nurse in oncology, moving on to be a lead research nurse and tissue bank manager. That’s where my real interest in research began.

Following the birth of my son, I came back to Harefield Hospital in 2019 to work as a research nurse so I could be closer to home but continue to work in research.

My role as Senior research nurse involves managing a portfolio of studies across a range of cardiovascular and respiratory disorders within Harefield Hospital, whilst managing and supporting (as well as being actively part of) the research delivery team. The role facilitates and supports high quality individualised care for patients participating in research.

What inspired you to work in research?

Whilst I was working at Charing Cross Hospital, I was very lucky to have a manager who was very supportive and inspirational. She was instrumental to my journey in research and that first role in research helped me develop a passion for it.

What I love most about working in research comes from knowing that we are working on treatments that may improve patients’ lives. We get to see the whole process from a hypothesis right through to a new treatment being licenced for patients.

Which women inspire you the most?

My biggest inspiration will always have to be my mum. Although she passed away when I was 21, her influence and impact is still present in my life. She was very kind, supportive and had a fantastic sense of humour.

She was always looking at ways to better herself and her knowledge, both personally and professionally. She was always self-improving, and I saw that from an early age. It’s now a big part of who I am – I’m always looking for ways to improve myself.

What is the most important piece of advice you've been given, either professionally or personally?

There’s been a lot of great advice given to me over the years but the most impactful advice for me has been ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. It’s helped me realise that I shouldn’t rely on others to make changes, I need to do it myself and rally people together.

How can we encourage more women to pursue research roles?

Our hospitals are doing a great job of encouraging staff to become involved in research. We have had a lot of things going on since the merger with Guy’s & St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust, including the establishment of A Centre of Research for Nurses & Midwives which has an internship programme for nurses. It allows nurses to work in research for a period of time and last year I mentored a nurse through the programme at Harefield Hospital who went on to receive the GSTT Research Engagement Award 2023 . 

Sometimes research can seem daunting and for many it’s a vague and broad concept. This is especially the case with nursing, where perhaps they aren’t given enough, or the right, information about working in research or undertaking their own research. I think by allowing nurses to see research happening in real time, they can experience first-hand the excitement and real change that can come about.

This is why we have welcome student nurses into the research department for a short time in their placement, so that they can see first-hand what research delivery is about and have a discussion about the opportunities for nurses in research. So far, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback.