My experience as an NIHR School for Primary Care Research intern: a pharmacy student’s perspective

Loreta Valatka



by Loreta Valatka, Third Year Pharmacy Student, University of Bath


My internship experience

The Carry Naloxone Somerset project, led by Dr Jenny Scott, was the main focus of my 2023 research summer internship at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC). The aim of the project is to encourage people in Somerset who may experience or witness an overdose to carry naloxone – a first aid medicine that can be supplied without prescription to prevent an opioid overdose from being fatal.

Before the launch of the campaign, I analysed survey data to write a report about the possession and carriage of naloxone, as well as overdose experiences amongst Somerset Drug and Alcohol Service (SDAS) users. Post launch, I was responsible for follow-ups with the 23 pharmacies that had signed up so far. This was to ensure all participating members of the pharmacy teams were trained and had the necessary resources for naloxone provision and for promotion of its carriage, and to check the Carry Naloxone app for errors.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to find out more about other projects within the department. For example, I attended a community engagement session with Dr Julie Clayton and a care organisation called Dhek Bhal about the Fastball-MCI project, which aims to develop a new diagnostic tool for dementia. This experience highlighted the importance of patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) in research, not only as a requirement by funders such as the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council, but in making studies more effective, more credible, and often more cost-efficient.

What I learnt about a career as a clinical academic

Clinical academics have the unique opportunity to bridge the know-do gap between research and clinical practice. By applying their clinical expertise to inform their research and vice versa, they play a vital role in knowledge mobilisation and implementation, which I had the pleasure of discussing with Dr Helen Baxter.

Furthermore, clinical academics enjoy a dynamic, varied schedule which allows for flexibility in tailoring the balance between clinical and academic roles. Not to mention networking opportunities which can be valuable for collaboration, gaining different perspectives, and research partnerships.

The clinical background can also act as a safety net within the research space where short-term contracts are the norm, reducing the stress of funding applications compared to a traditional research career.

So, it is an appealing choice of career and I recommend those interested to apply for an SPCR internship.

My main piece of advice for future interns

Everyone at CAPC is welcoming and enthusiastic to talk about their research interests and the process of carrying out research. Make the most of this by proactively scheduling meetings and being a good listener, as you never know who might offer a thought that ignites your curiosity.

Funder acknowledgement

I am grateful to the NIHR School for Primary Care Research for funding my internship.

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