Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust clinical school

Mary Hickson and Susie Pearce have come to work with nurses, midwives and Allied Health Professionals and any other healthcare professionals interested in improving practice with research. Mary is a Professor of Dietetics and Susie is Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing. They both have a strong background of developing research in the clinical environment and a passion for developing individuals and teams to improve patient care.

What are we doing?

The Clinical School at Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust exists to promote evidence-based practice and clinically-focused non-medical research that enhances patient care.

A partnership between the Trust and the University of Plymouth, the Clinical School encourages and supports nurses, midwives and other allied health professionals to look at their practice, challenge current thinking, try out new ideas and work out ways to measure what they're doing.

We are working at two levels; one to change the ethos, strategy, culture and infrastructure to help support research activity and also with individual staff to support them to increase their research skills and knowledge.

What are our objectives?

Together with the support of the trust and individual staff, we aim to:

  • increase research activity and enhance research opportunities to improve service delivery and patient outcomes
  • increase the capability for nurses, midwives, and allied health professionals to develop practice-based research
  • assist the transition of registered healthcare professionals to research leadership roles located within clinical settings
  • support the production of innovative ideas to enhance clinical practices within healthcare

Who do we work with?

We link with research and development, education, quality improvement, researchers in residence, clinical effectiveness and the executive board.

How can we help you?

We work one day a week at various locations within the trust. We are happy to come and meet you and/or your team at a convenient time. We can discuss your practice development ideas, research questions, searching for the evidence, applying for grants, applying for ethical approval and really anything linked to research or improving practice.

Clinical School Leads

Mary Hickson

Mary is a registered dietitian and her research interests are nutrition support, nutrition and ageing, nutrition care in the acute setting and across care setting boundaries, frailty and sarcopenia, and dietetic practice.

Susie Pearce

Susie is a registered nurse and her research interests include: patient and professional experience, multi professional team working, and integrated models of care; innovative methods of practice based research, including longitudinal qualitative, visual and psychosocial methods; developing care in cancer, end of life, and other life limiting and long terms conditions; and  the development of cultures of compassionate, effective and safe care. 

Research study

Balance Enhancement and Ulcer Prevention in Diabetes

The aim of this feasibility study is to inform the development of a large scale, multi-site, randomized controlled trial to investigate the clinical effectiveness of a new instant insole solution for people at risk of diabetic neuropathic foot ulceration to instantly modify and optimise plantar pressure, with the aim of reducing risk of diabetic foot ulcer (re) occurrence.

Richard Collings, NIHR Clinical Doctoral Fellowship Researcher

Launch of the University of Plymouth and Torbay and South Devon Clinical School


Left to right: Dr Susie Pearce (School of Nursing), Jane Viner (Director of Nursing, Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust), and Professor Mary Hickson (School of Health Professions).

The University of Plymouth Clinical Schools 4th annual conference was held at the Horizon centre, Torbay Hosptial on 16 May 2018. At the event, the Torbay Clinical School was launched to support clinical researchers and promote research and quality improvement. The conference celebrated research and development in practice through presentations, posters and discussion. 

The Multi-disciplinary Team from the Coastal Locality gave an inspiring presentation on their journey so far and the crucial role the researchers in residence have played in generating the evidence to show that the integrated model is improving care. There were other presentations from Trust staff sharing their research experience and how this is improving the care of people who use our services. At the end of the day, delegates said they had been inspired by the passion and commitment of those engaged in research with many stating that they were now interested in doing their own research studies.

Professor Mary Hickson and Dr Susie Pearce have a joint role with the Trust and University of Plymouth as Directors of the Clinical School.

“Thank-you to everyone who came and created a great event celebrating research in practice. The quality work was excellent, and we are both looking forward to holding more exciting events in the future. We will also be developing some new opportunities to support staff at the Trust to develop innovative, compassionate and research-based care in the coming years.”