Finding the resources for nurses to complete original research is not always easy but it is achievable. Allison Bentley, Specialist Palliative Care Nurse, St Nicholas Hospice Care, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, UK, and doctoral student, explains how and why she persevered.
I have been nursing for 30 years, but it is probably in the last decade I have been on a specific journey to gain academic and clinical knowledge in palliative care for those people with a non-cancer diagnosis. I was a district nursing sister originally (part of a primary healthcare team visiting patients in their own homes or in residential care homes), and the lack of equality in accessing equipment, services and good symptom control for those with long-term conditions in end of life care was very real at that time. Working with my community colleagues who are heart failure nurses, respiratory nurses, diabetes specialist nurses, neurological, dementia and mental health nurses we have made strides in the right direction. However, gaining additional research skills and knowledge as a community nurse has been challenging at times.
Whilst completing a BA (Hons) in Primary and Community Care, I was informed that completing original research was not part of the dissertation due to increasing difficulties gaining ethics approval for small-scale, individual projects. Not to be put off, a few years later I applied to my manager to be considered for the MSc Health Science (Palliative Care) at Warwick University. I explained the very merits of studying with colleagues from all disciplines, the need for nurses to develop palliative care skills and to develop research projects that would benefit patients we were working with every day. However, this was not seen as a requirement of my job and so no resources were available.
This was the time to be creative – I applied to many scholarships, charities, bursaries big and small, and got started slowly, one module at a time. I then decided to work as a community matron (ie a senior practitioner who provides case management for patients with long-term conditions living in the local community with deteriorating health), with the hope of caring for patients with multiple co-morbidities, as many spend the last few years of life in and out of hospital and care settings. For the patients I help support at home it is evident that many have multiple long-term conditions to contend with, and a complex array of burdensome symptoms. Working with elderly people has raised many questions about their end of life care planning and access to palliative care services. In order to help develop research in this area, I have been lucky enough to be sponsored by a Florence Nightingale Foundation Research Scholarship to start a distance e-learning PhD in palliative care at the International End of Life Observatory (Lancaster University).
The reality of nurses completing their own research has been realised by scholarships and programmes such as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) clinical academic training programmes. I hope the skills of clinician and researcher will benefit my new role at the local hospice in trying to develop partnerships and access for all patients.
To find out more…
Click here for information about the distance e-learning PhD in palliative care.
EAPC Early Researcher Award 2015 – online application now open!
Applications are welcomed from scientists and clinicians who are at an early stage of their research career in palliative care for the next award. Three award winners will be selected. The winner of the first place will be invited to present his/her work to an international audience by giving a plenary lecture at the 14th EAPC World Congress in Copenhagen in May 2015. Travel cost, accommodation and registration fee will be covered. Candidates who have already applied for the award in previous years are invited to reapply. Candidates can apply themselves, or be nominated by their supervisor or similar. Click here for full details and to apply online. Closing date: 5 pm, November 30, 2014.