A PhD in Palliative Care? Why would you want to do that?

Dr Catherine Walshe, Senior Lecturer in Palliative Care and Director of the International Observatory on End of Life Care, Lancaster University, UK

Dr Catherine Walshe

Dr Catherine Walshe

Why would anyone want to embark on a three-year (or more) PhD process involving serious amounts of soul-searching, head scratching and self-doubt? A question I frequently asked myself whilst completing my own PhD some years ago whilst also juggling other life demands. However, despite that reality check, here I am advocating just such an academic programme for many more colleagues working in palliative care. Why would I do that?

Well, I think there are many reasons why individuals might think about embarking on a PhD programme and why our speciality needs such people with advanced training in research.

It is critically important that we continue to develop research capacity in palliative care. There is an incremental increase in palliative care research published year on year, but not necessarily all of the high quality needed to guide our practice. We don’t just need more research in the field; we need better research too. And for that, it’s critical that people who have a sound training in research and research methods are involved in guiding this expansion.

Research in palliative care is known to have particular challenges. Palliative care serves a heterogeneous population, and provides complex care using multidisciplinary teams to people who are very ill. It is not ethical to involve such populations in research that is poorly designed, and hence cannot deliver the research outcomes promised. To address these issues effectively in research requires a balanced appreciation of the possibilities and difficulties of research in this field. Expertise from others in related fields in guiding our research and development of research methods will always be important, but we also need to ensure this expertise is held within palliative care research as well. Palliative care research therefore needs a wide range of researchers from different basic, social science and clinical backgrounds with excellent preparation in the specifics of palliative care research to enable collaboration, appreciation of, and solutions to research challenges.

All researchers have been challenged to avoid waste in research and for those working with people with life-limiting conditions such potential waste may seem particularly problematic. One of the solutions posed to reduce waste is optimising the training of researchers in research methods and design. Increasingly, the essential building block or basic qualification as a researcher is the PhD. Those working in academic palliative care are critically important in developing the researchers of the future through ensuring the provision of appropriately tailored research degrees.

If you are persuaded that PhD level qualifications are important to the field of palliative care, do you still need persuading that you might be exactly the person to take up this opportunity? If you’ve read this far, then you are probably interested in research, and that’s a vitally important qualification. Are you interested in making a difference to the way that we look after people who are dying, and helping to improve the outcomes of care? Do you have an issue that you are interested in that you would like to study further? Well, I think you might be a strong candidate. Whilst all PhD programmes have minimum academic requirements that you would need to check out, a key factor for success in most PhD programmes is having the interest and drive in the topic to sustain you through the ups and downs of the process.

Where do you turn to next to find out more?
Many academic institutions working in palliative care are also involved in the preparation of the next generation of PhD trained researchers. My own institution, the International Observatory on End of Life Care  at Lancaster University, offers a blended learning part-time PhD in Palliative Care for example, which can be studied from anywhere in the world. Full-time funded PhD opportunities are also available.

There are also other international and national PhD programmes. Find-a-PhD might be helpful to start off your search for funded PhDs, or just ‘google’ PhD in Palliative Care. Get to know what it’s like to be a PhD student by browsing the #PhDchat on twitter perhaps?


EAPC congress 2015

Are you coming to Copenhagen?
See you at the 14th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care – Copenhagen, Denmark, 8-10 May, 2015.  Follow us on Twitter @EAPCOnlus – our official congress hashtag is #eapc2015 

Tienes pensado venir a Copenhague?
Te esperamos en el 14º Congreso Mundial de la Sociedad Europea de Cuidados Paliativos – Copenhague, Dinamarca, del 8 al 10 de Mayo 2015. Consulta toda la información aquí.  También puedes seguirnos en Twitter @EAPCOnlus – el hashtag oficial del congreso es #eapc2015 

This entry was posted in EDUCATION & TRAINING, RESEARCH and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A PhD in Palliative Care? Why would you want to do that?

  1. Great timing with this article – I’ve been looking into this program over the past couple of weeks. Still not sure if it’s the course I take in my educational pathway, but very helpful, timely insight nonetheless.

  2. Thanks for the comment. If anyone is interested in talking anything through please do contact me – email probably best.

    • Deo Msanya says:

      Great and timely article. I’m very much interested in this topic. May I get in touch with you for more support please?

  3. Pingback: Elsewhere in the Palliverse – Weekend Reads | PALLIVERSE

  4. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you, However I am having difficulties with your RSS.
    I don’t understand why I am unable to subscribe
    to it. Is there anybody else getting similar RSS issues?
    Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

  5. Denise Harris says:

    Hello Catherine

    I am interested in fulfilling a PhD by published works in my specialist area of Palliative and End of Life Care. Please advise if this degree is offered at Lancaster University.

    Regards, Denise Harris

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