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Last word with ... Professor Jane Appleton: Professor in Primary and Community Care, Oxford Brookes University.

I have always had a passion for research and for asking questions about professional practice. Working as a health visitor, my interest in research was first stimulated when I undertook a part-time MSc in Nursing at King's College, London and I carried out an empirical study on health visitors' work with vulnerable families. I was really inspired by my course leaders, people whose research I'd read when I was a student.

This started me on my current career path. During my MSc I transitioned to the position of community nurse tutor, a job that involved preparing and supporting student nurses in their primary care placements, and it was also around this time that I started disseminating my research work by publishing and speaking at professional conferences.

I started out by applying for lots of small research grants and these have got bigger over time. My current research programme on child protection developed from my health visiting PhD study, when I was awarded a Smith and Nephew Nursing Research Fellowship. Later I sought postdoctoral research funding, and in 2007 I completed a study on Safeguarding children: The management and organisation of child protection responsibilities in primary care, funded by the Health Foundation Consortium.

Over the years I've been a lecturer, senior lecturer in community nursing, principal lecturer in research education, Reader and now a Professor. I've always been interested in looking for new opportunities and if things have come my way I've tended to say "yes" and worried about how I would find the time to do them afterwards.

Throughout my career I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with some amazing role models who have been inspirational and generous in their support.

Now at Oxford Brookes University, I run a distance learning Masters in Child Welfare and Wellbeing, as well as a module on child protection for SCPHN students. I lead the Children and Families Research Group, which is part of the new Oxford Institute of Nursing & Allied Health Research (OxINAHR). Some of our recent research has focused on the child sexual exploitation knowledge and training needs of health care staff, children who miss healthcare appointments and Think Baby. I work with a small group of researchers and supervise some fantastic PhD students. I also love talking to would-be researchers, working with professionals to change practice, and supervising research students. Three of my PhD students have won major national awards, one of them winning The RCN Akinsanya Award for the most Innovative Doctoral Study in Nursing in 2008.

What drives me forward is continuing to make a distinctive contribution to the health visiting service. I enjoy working nationally to influence policy, such as when I was an expert health visitor member of the NICE Guideline Development Group on 'When to Suspect Child Maltreatment'. I believe the most important part of doing research is to make a difference in practice with children and families. It's always incredibly rewarding when professionals say they have read my work and found it helpful. My advice to those who want to follow a similar career path is:

* Grasp the opportunities that come your way

* Start by applying for small research grants

* Find a mentor or a champion of your work

* Persevere

* Don't be put off by those who put obstacles in your way

* Set some realistic goals

* Strive for excellence

* Remember you can only do your best.
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Title Annotation:THE LAST WORD
Publication:Community Practitioner
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 1, 2015
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