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21 Feb 2024

‘Making connections and having a flexible mindset' – ARC Dementia Research Fellow James Faraday shares his reflections on juggling multiple roles

James Faraday

The NIHR ARC North East and North Cumbria recently appointed five new Dementia Research Fellows, to strengthen capacity and capability in applied dementia research in our region.

The Fellowships have been funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) working in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Society, as part of a £7.5million investment in applied dementia research across England.

In this blog, ARC NENC Dementia Research Fellow James Faraday shares more about his work and research, and explains why having a flexible mindset is important when juggling multiple roles.

In my working life I have three different roles…

Sometimes, I am a Speech and Language Therapist. I work with people who have eating and drinking difficulties. Often this is care home residents living with dementia. Some people living with dementia may experience challenges at mealtimes, such as problems recognising food and drink, or reduced range of tastes and preferences, or swallowing difficulties. When our clinical team receives a referral, I visit the care homes and spend time with the resident and their carers, to understand the situation better and suggest some things that might help.

Sometimes I am a researcher. My clinical work showed me that providing care at mealtimes is skilled and complex. I wondered if there were different ways we could support care home staff – for example, by providing better training. So, I developed an idea for a training programme to improve mealtime care for people living with dementia. This led to an NIHR-funded PhD, where I learned from and worked with residents, care home staff and family carers to identify what’s important in mealtime care – and used this knowledge to create a training programme. Now I am testing out the training in local care homes, with support from an ARC Dementia Fellowship and NIHR Three Schools Dementia Career Development Award. I will be finding out from staff whether it improves their confidence in providing mealtime care, and whether the format works well in the busy care home environment.

Sometimes I am a Clinical Educator. I am really enjoying my journey into research, but it has not always been straightforward. I have become very aware that we face a number of challenges when trying to re-orientate to a career encompassing clinical work and research. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to take on a new role in the NMAHP Research team at Newcastle Hospitals. In this role I support Newcastle’s Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professionals to engage with research in their clinical settings, helping them to navigate the challenges and reach their potential. I firmly believe that research can be for everyone, with real benefits for patients, the workforce, and the wider community.

I love the way that my roles are so inter-connected. It can make life complicated sometimes, in terms of my working pattern and trying to compartmentalise my days. But I’ve learned that keeping things in compartments is not always helpful, and instead, making connections and having a flexible mindset is the way forward. I am starting to think next about how we might help to build research-capacity in social care, making use of the skills I’ve learned in a healthcare context.

It would be great to hear from anyone who is balancing similar roles. Feel free to get in touch on [email protected]

James is employed by the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and linked to Newcastle University.