Tamara Whittle

tamara photo

Nurse Associate and Research Champion, South London and Maudsley 

As part of my role as a Research Champion on the older adult ward, I carried out a research project looking at ways we could help patients improve their sleep. 

What’s your role at the Trust?   

I’m a Nurse Associate working with elderly patients at  Maudsley Hospital, Aubrey Lewis One Ward. I’ve been working at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust for 19 years now, in various roles! I joined as an Administrator, then became a Clinical Support Worker for a year and a half. 

In my current role, a Nurse Associate, I provide support for the nurses, help out with ward rounds, or admissions and discharges. It’s shift-based working, five days a week, any day of the week, early or late.  

I’ve just started a two-year Nursing Associate Higher Apprenticeship at University of Greenwich to become a Mental Health Nurse. My studying  is being supported by the Trust. Now that my kids are at university, I have the time to be able to focus on my nursing degree. 

Why did you get into this role?  

I’ve always worked with older adults.  I got into it because of my Grandmother, who had a stroke, and so my Mum and I became her main carers.  

It’s been interesting to understand my grandmother’s illness more since starting my Apprenticeship - I realised in my first project when studying Vascular Dementia that it was the condition she had. 

When did you become a Research Champion? How did you first become research aware?   

We’ve done a few research projects on the ward. One of them was a project on sleep in March 2022, and that’s when I met Carrie-Ann Black, Head of Nursing for Research and Quality, who suggested I become a Research Champion. 

There’s an important relationship between sleep and mental health. I noticed that patients weren’t sleeping well. We decided to look into it further, monitoring sleep on the ward and how it was impacting their mental wellbeing. We did a whole week’s sleep campaign around it with the service users. We made lavender bags, eye masks and talked about different ways to improve sleep. We invited patient’s carers and got patients involved - even the Service User and Carer Advisory Group was saying they haven’t had so much fun in a long time! 

Has your Research Champion role had an impact in your day to day work?  

The sleep study had a big impact on my work on the ward. We realised that patients weren’t sleeping very well, and we were able to start helping them to sleep better.  

Being a Research Champion doesn’t take up too much time. My managers are flexible and supportive of giving me the time to do what I need to. I’m not the only Research Champion on the Aubrey Lewis ward either - I persuaded our Administrator to get involved as well!  

Do you find the monthly Research Champion meetings useful?  

Yes absolutely. They’ve enabled me to speak with others about the sleep project and to arrange for it to be rolled out throughout the whole of the Trust, with the support of Haddy Quist and Carrie-Ann. Sleep issues can cause all sorts of physical and mental health issues such as weight gain and diabetes, so it has the potential to make a big difference.    

If someone didn’t know much about research - what would you say that research means to you?  

I would say that without research, you can’t progress, develop or learn. You need research to improve so many things. Without research we wouldn’t have got this far with everything we offer in the Trust. I’m glad I found out about the Research Champion role.  

Tamara gave an interview about her Grandmother and her work with older adults for the ‘Patient Voices’ project - watch it here: