Healthcare Quarterly

Healthcare Quarterly 22(1) April 2019 : 60-66.doi:10.12927/hcq.2019.25834
Roles in Healthcare

Overcoming Challenges to Support Clinician-Scientist Roles in Canadian Academic Health Sciences Centres

Sue Bookey-Bassett, Andria Bianchi, Joy Richards and Helen Kelly


Clinician-scientists (CSs) make significant contributions to the healthcare system, yet their roles are not fully understood, supported or recognized by healthcare leaders or policy makers. CSs are healthcare professionals with advanced research training who continue to pursue clinical work and are considered an essential component of the research infrastructure in academic health sciences centres. The current literature supports the role of CSs but is also clear that there are multiple challenges in attracting and retaining clinicians to the role. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the current status of the CS role, two literature reviews were conducted. The findings reported here include an overview of:

  1. the education and training preparation for CS roles;
  2. the importance of the CS role;
  3. barriers and challenges to developing and implementing the CS role; and
  4. strategies for supporting and sustaining CS roles in practice.

The paper further describes one Canadian academic health sciences centre's approach to supporting and increasing the number of CSs from nursing and allied health professions to support academic practice. Non-physician CSs may conduct research using multiple research designs across the research continuum from randomized controlled trials to grounded theory or qualitative descriptive approaches. Their research generally focuses on practice-based issues such as best practices for managing pain or frailty or evaluating the effectiveness of new approaches to care. Researchers and healthcare leaders in other organizations may find this work helpful for establishing their own structures to enhance research capacity and practice-based research, especially for non-physician CSs.



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