Work during covid sparks new career path for West Cumbrian

11 July 2023

Former Clinical Research Practitioner Laura was inspired to retrain as a Physician Associate based at Cumberland Infirmary.

A local former Clinical Researcher Practitioner is celebrating the start of her new career as a Physician Associate at Cumberland Infirmary after her work during the pandemic prompted a new vocational calling.

Laura Singleton, who graduated this week from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), was working as a Clinical Research Practitioner for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) when Covid struck and prompted her to explore a new career option.

The 30-year-old had worked in a research team focusing mainly on diabetes, asthma and migraine studies for three years when she found herself working on Covid drugs trials in 2020. The challenges of the pandemic inspired Laura to consider her career options and she opted to re-train as a Physician Associate; a role that involves working alongside doctors to provide medical care.

“I worked throughout Covid on various studies and realised I wanted to progress and be more clinical” she said. “Previously, I could only work with patients as far as the study permitted me to. When I assessed patients for trials, they already had a formal diagnosis and I was always intrigued by and wished to be involved in the steps leading to their diagnosis.”

"Graduating feels quite strange. I started working so soon after qualifying in March that I almost forgot what I had achieved... so I guess graduating is a nice ‘I did that’ to myself."

New UCLan graduate Laura Singleton

Laura spent two years studying at UCLan’s Westlakes Campus near Whitehaven for a MSc Physician Associate Practice degree, having last been in education seven years ago.

She said: “It was a big adjustment and at times I put too much pressure on myself but I somehow managed to be awarded ‘top of the class’ at the end of both years. I’m very grateful to my family for their support.

“Graduating feels quite strange. I started working so soon after qualifying in March that I almost forgot what I had achieved. I didn’t let it sink in really, so I guess graduating is a nice ‘I did that’ to myself.”

Laura, who attended Nelson Thomlinson School in Wigton and lives in Aspatria, now works on the Emergency Surgical Admissions ward at the Cumberland Infirmary; one of the hospitals she worked at in her previous role.

She added: “I’m three months into my new role and I love it. It can be intense at times but I’m enjoying the rewards of the role and hopefully making a difference to the continuity of care for our patients.”

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UCLan physician associate graduate Laura Singleton at her graduation ceremony01 / 01

UCLan physician associate graduate Laura Singleton