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DFN Project SEARCH Intern Involved in COVID-19 Study During Placement at North Devon District Hospital

Robert Braunton, 21, has been put at the forefront of the region’s fightback against Covid-19 with his work placement at North Devon District Hospital. His placement as a SIREN Study Administrator, organised by Seetec Pluss, means he is contributing to a study that will give researchers a better insight into the impact of SARS-COV2 antibodies (the virus that causes Covid-19) on the incidence of Covid-19 in healthcare workers.

During his paid placement Robert has worked in a range of roles and departments across the Hospital site in Barnstaple. Most recently he has been putting research packs together so participants have all the information about the study. Robert had never considered a career in research and says that before his placement he knew “nothing about it” but, with the support and guidance of his colleagues, he has come to realise the importance of research on combating the Covid-19 pandemic. Robert said:

“It’s a big thing and it’s really important. It’s a really interesting place to work and I’ve learnt a lot about Covid research. I really enjoy my job. I like coming to work and meeting new people – the people here are lovely. I also like learning new things.”

Robert’s placement runs until August 2021 and he is also working on the NHSP bank and he hopes his placement will lead to a full time paid job.

Martin Howard, Graduate Research Assistant -SIREN Study, University of Exeter and currently working at North Devon District Hospital, has been working closely with Robert and he describes what he’s been doing during his placement:

“Robert originally joined the Trust through Project SEARCH; a scheme that gives young people with learning disabilities a unique opportunity to gain work experience at North Devon District Hospital, which is proving a great success. The focus of the program is to give the young person the skills and experience to gain paid employment.

“Robert has had roles in the past in pharmacy, medical records and the Exmoor eye clinic. This has provided Robert with valuable skills in different settings within the NHS which he has successfully translated into his current role.

“Robert has played a pivotal role in helping to organise the administrative side of the SIREN study, through dealing with participant queries, booking appointments and organising consumables for participant visits. Robert’s organisation and willingness to take on new challenges has helped the research department at NDHT to reach the target of recruiting over 10% of the workforce into the study. Robert has shown enthusiasm and dedication to work in a different role to those which he has previously been employed as both in Project Search and with NHSP.”

Tom Reynolds, Deputy Research & Development Manager, North Devon District Hospital, has been impressed by Robert’s work and how he has ensured all the staff have to opportunity to get involved in the study:

“Robert has been a great asset to the NDHT R&D Department during a very difficult time and has worked diligently to ensure we saw as many research participants as possible. We are a small, friendly team and Robert has fitted in straight away with his positive, friendly demeanour and a proactive attitude to his work, so I am very pleased to be able to extend our thanks to Robert for everything he does to help us deliver our vital research at NDHT.”

Robert’s advice to anyone considering a career in research is to contact their local hospital’s Research Department to see what opportunities they have available. As he says: “Everyone has been supportive.”