Last weeks launch of applications for the HEE/NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic Programme fellowships for ‘non-medical healthcare professionals’ has led me to reflect on the watershed moment that moves someone from thinking about ‘doing research’ to taking the first step on the journey of ‘becoming a researcher’.

It may be a tentative step taken with a bit of a wobble, it may be taken with confidence or it may be a leap full of energy and power but irrespective of the nature of the step it is, never the less, a big step. Submitting an application for a funded fellowship, having a discussion with a line manager about embarking upon a Masters programme or making an appointment to meet with someone to talk about embarking upon a PhD each is the start of a new journey.

If you are a researcher can you remember what sparked that moment for you? Possibly a combination of things: hearing an inspirational talk; the realisation that the only way to try to answer the burning question arising from your practice was to explore it yourself; meeting someone who took the time to listen to what you had to say and instilled in you the confidence to move forward; meeting someone who challenged you to do better. At some point something inside you will have demanded attention and moved you to action. Even though it was some time ago I can still remember the physicality of that moment, a sense of excitement, the quickening of the heart and a connection with something inside of me that was important.

Over the course of a year I meet many clinicians aspiring to become researchers and am involved in many discussions with people wanting to find out more about opportunities to get involved in research. Such conversations focus often on practicalities and processes, how do I find funding, how will I make time, who do I need to talk to? But less frequently do I hear the personal values and aspirations that are being honoured.

Recently I have had the opportunity to work more closely colleagues working from a coaching perspective and have become a trained coach myself. This has opened a different lens for me, the lens of what it means to ‘be’ rather than to ‘do’. This is a lens that I will continue to explore in my writing but in this post I want to focus on those very early steps at the start of a journey.

As someone who has supervised research students if I think about what genuinely ignites excitement in me when meet them for the first time it isn’t just their idea or topic, which is highly likely to change and evolve anyway. What really draws me is the enthusiasm they bring to the conversation, their aspirations and the values they communicate in what they say.

In the workshops we run we have had great fun working with early career researchers from this perspective, really challenging them to connect with their values around research, why it is important to them and their aspirations. These are very different conversations which take people to a deeper level of discovery about themselves.

So if you are about to take the first step in your research journey my suggestion is to do some work around what it means for you to ‘be’ a researcher, why it is important to you and what values you are honouring. This is the fire that keeps researchers alive and carries us through the tough times so it is great to connect with it, explore it and understand it.