The NI Clinical Research Network (NICRN) undertakes Cardiovascular research throughout Northern Ireland. The NICRN is part of a UK-wide initiative to provide opportunities for patients and clinicians to participate in high-quality clinical research.

The NICRN aims to:

  • Promote cardiovascular research within Northern Ireland;
  • Attract clinical trials in cardiovascular disease to Northern Ireland;
  • Conduct clinical trials across Northern Ireland to the highest standards of quality and safety;
  • Provide infrastructure to facilitate the start-up of new trials in cardiovascular disease;
  • Improve access for cardiovascular patients to new cutting-edge treatments.


Areas of interest include the following:

  • Providing access to novel therapies through partnership with the commercial sector.
  • Evaluation of novel diagnostic imaging tools in cardiac medicine.
  • Use of biomarkers in the rapid diagnosis of acute

Donna Fitzsimmons

Cardiovascular – Clinical Lead

Donna Fitzsimons, RN, BSc, PhD, FESC

Professor Donna Fitzsimons is currently Head of the School of Nursing & Midwifery & Member of Senate in Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland. She has a clinical background in cardiology and enjoyed a long-standing a joint appointment with Belfast Health & Social Care Trust. She has been Vice Chair of the Regional Ethics Committee and is a current member of the Scientific Research Committee of Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke. She has secured substantial research funding, is widely published with a h-index of 52 and has extensive experience in research supervision.

Donna is a past European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Board Member (2014-2020) where she led Patient Involvement activities and pioneered the establishment of the ESC Patient Form. She was previously an elected Councillor on the ESC Board 2016-2018 and was Chair of the ESC Council on Cardiovascular Nursing & Allied Professionals (2011-2013).  As a member of the Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee she has lead work on involving patients in Guideline development and review, as well as enhancing nurses’ role in Guideline Implementation. Currently she is working on several large European projects that exploit digital solutions to maximise cardiovascular health and wellbeing. 

Professor Fitzsimons’ leadership demonstrates her commitment to improving the quality of patient experience and care through enhanced nursing education and  interdisciplinary research. Her research interests in Cardiology include prevention, patient engagement and palliative and supportive care.

Prof Fitzsimons has been a co-lead and PI for the Clinical Research Network since 2016.

Contact email:

Dr Paddy Donnelly

Cardiovascular – Clinical Lead


Contact email: