Palliative care research: Professor Jane Seymour wins lifetime achievement award

Professor Jane Seymour (Sue Ryder Care Professor of Palliative and End of Life Studies), talks to Professor Sheila Payne (President of the EAPC) about her career in palliative care research and her reaction to winning the International Journal of Palliative Nursing Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented in London on 20 March 2014.

Professor Jane Seymour with her husband, Dr Jeremy Seymour, at the award ceremony.  (Photograph: Julian Dodd)

Professor Jane Seymour with her husband, Dr Gerry  Seymour, at the award ceremony. (Photograph: Julian Dodd)

Sheila Payne: You’ve worked as a clinical nurse and academic nurse researcher for many years in the United Kingdom. What inspired you to devote so much of your life to palliative care?

Prof Jane Seymour: I believe that the formative experiences I had during my clinical work as a nurse in non-specialist palliative care and as a child growing up in the ‘60s and the ‘70s led to my career choice. As a child, I lived through the very serious life-threatening and long-term illness of both my parents, who were wonderful role models in how to deal with death and dying; they did so by humour, love and sheer stoical endurance.

SP: Palliative care has been part of your life for many years now – tell me why you began to do a PhD in palliative care and how did it all begin?

JS: I completed a degree in Social Science before I became a nurse and then, when my children were tiny, managed to complete a part-time master’s degree during a short break from clinical practice. Once I re-established myself as an intensive care nurse, I started to think seriously about the problems of care of the dying. David Clark enabled me to gain a PhD from the University of Sheffield, and the rest is history as they say!

SP: You’re now working at the University of Nottingham, where you lead a research team. Tell me about your work here and the innovations you’ve made?

JS: After my PhD I spent some years working at the University of Sheffield and later became Professor of Palliative and End of Life Care Studies and developed the Sue Ryder Care Centre for the Study of Supportive, Palliative and End of Life Care, at the University of Nottingham. It has been a huge pleasure as well as a challenge to develop the Centre. We are located in a university hospital and now have quite a sizeable team of researchers and a wonderful group of PhD students. I have worked on building our links to clinical practice and policy and extending internationally, particularly in terms of PhD student preparation.

SP: How did you build up the team?

JS: I was very fortunate in that the Centre came with some core funding meaning that I was able to appoint two or three key staff, which meant that we could bring in some research funds relatively quickly and thus gradually build the team. Most recently, we appointed Professor Bridget Johnston, in December 2013.

SP: What has been your biggest achievement in palliative care research?

JS: I am most proud of the fact that I have learnt to be a good PhD supervisor, and that the Centre has students from many parts of the world as well as from the UK, including: Jordan, Thailand, Malawi, Kenya, India and Cameroon.

SP: Thinking about your own experiences in establishing a new research group, what three tips would you give to someone who is setting up a new palliative care research group today?


  • Don’t try to do too much but rather deliver on your promises and do what you do well.
  • Learn to be a good manager of your staff and a visible and approachable leader
  • Take a break sometimes and don’t neglect your own well being.

SP: What gives you hope for the future?

JS: In the 32 years or so since I qualified as a nurse, palliative care has emerged from the side lines to become a feasible solution to global suffering; the attention it is now receiving internationally gives me great hope for the future.

Coming up…
Next in our series of blog interviews, Irene Murphy, EAPC board member, will be talking to Dr Kathy McLoughlin from Ireland about her recent award, and Professor Lukas Radbruch, President of the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, will be talking to Dr Nora Elena Saldarriaga Cartagena abut her work in Colombia.

Find out more …

  • Click here for more information on the Sue Ryder Care Centre for the Study of Supportive, Palliative and End of Life Care. 
  • Click here to read other interviews on the blog. 
  • Click here for more information about this year’s International Journal of Palliative Nursing awards.


This entry was posted in EAPC Board Members, INTERVIEWS & TRIBUTES, RESEARCH and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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