Planning for the future: assessment of research capacity in health professions

Ms Sharon Lee1,2, Dr Karen  Byth-Wilson1,2, Professor Victoria Flood1,2

1Western Sydney Local Health District, Westmead, Australia, 2University of Sydney, Camperdown, Australia

Background: Research should inform clinical decision-making and evidence-based practice for health care professionals (HCPs).  To build research capacity and plan for future workforce development among HCPs, there is a need to measure the levels of research capacity and identify the gaps and needs of HCPs. The aim of this study was to assess the research culture and capacity of HCPs (allied health, nursing and medical) in Western Sydney Local Health District, Australia.

Methods: A research capacity and culture tool (RCCT) survey was electronically distributed to all health staff in WSLHD, in 2016-17.  A Likert scale measured self-reported research capacity at the individual (14 items), team (19 items) and organisational levels (18 items), with measures of 1 indicating lowest skill/success and 10 indicating highest skill/success. In secondary analysis, the overall average median scores in each domain (individual, team and organisation) were calculated, and compared across professions, and adjusted for age and gender.

Results: A total of 393 health staff were included based on sufficient data about profession and RCCT items. Participants were allied health (46.3%), nursing (35.4%) and medical staff (18.3%), with 76% females and most people aged 35-54 years (54%). Medical (MD) staff scored significantly higher in individual and team average median scores than allied health (AH) and nursing (N) staff (Individual: 6.3 (MD) vs 5.4 (AH), 4.6 (N), p<0.0005; Team: 5.7 (MD) vs 4.2 (AH), 4.3 (N), p=0.01), after adjusting for age and gender. However, there were no differences between the three professions for organisational responses.

Conclusion: This study suggests that individual and team research capacity for medical, allied health and nursing professionals are at different stages of development. Planning for research capacity building is likely to benefit from tailoring to the specific needs of each profession, and this work is informing initiatives in a large public health organisation.


Sharon is the clinical trials manager at Western Sydney Local Health District and is currently enrolled in a Masters of Research at The University of Sydney. Her Masters degree is investigating research capacity among health professional in a public health organisation.


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