Searchlight: How a palliative care literature review shed light on a new career path

AN OPPORTUNITY TO CATCH UP WITH OUR ‘PAST POSTS’ – Today we’re republishing a research article from Canada that was selected as  ‘Editor’s Choice’ in January 2020.

Each month, Professor Catherine Walshe, Editor-in-Chief of ‘Palliative Medicine’, chooses an article that readers may find particularly interesting or useful and invites the authors to draw out the key points on the EAPC blog. Focusing on research that is novel, a robust review, from a specific country or just slightly left of field, the ‘Editor’s Choice’ post aims to share experience and stimulate ideas. We hope you’ll read the longer article in ‘Palliative Medicine’, or EAPC members can access a free copy from the EAPC website.

Mary Scott is an MSc Candidate at the University of Ottawa and Research Assistant, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, The Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Here she explains the background to her research study and longer article published in the January 2020 issue of  ‘Palliative Medicine’.

Mary Scott

An eager anthropology undergraduate meets a successful clinical investigator and together they develop a plan to conduct a systematic review. So begins a search that has not ended.

Drs Peter Tanuseputro, Amy Hsu, Sarina Isenberg and colleagues identified a need for a review on effectiveness of palliative care after discharge in Ontario. Although palliative care is often discussed as an effective intervention that improves patients’ quality of life and other health outcomes, it was only recently recognised as a specialty. Peter and his colleagues have been exploring the impact of palliative care services over the past few years. Many patients transitioning from hospital to community settings at the end of life experience challenges with consistency of care plans and providers. This can be particularly burdensome given the often-increased healthcare needs of patients and their families during this period. Palliative care is considered a good approach to care that manages patients’ symptoms and supports patient-centred care plans. Recent evidence that there is lack of palliative care being delivered across Ontario was further reason to consolidate the evidence on how palliative care impacts the end of life after hospitalisation.

The study taught me that conducting a rigorous systematic review is quite tough. But it also taught me that health research could be an exciting venture for someone who is curious and creative, and could be very impactful when aiming to address issues within our healthcare system. This project was also personally exciting because I deepened my knowledge of my own father’s career as a palliative care physician, who was a key figure in its development in Canada.

This review was a pivotal experience for me. I am now pursuing a new career in research. This fall I began a Master’s programme in Epidemiology at the University of Ottawa. My proposed thesis is looking at physicians who provide house calls to those at the end of life and emerges directly from this initial project. I aim to identify physician-based factors that influence home visits in Ontario. This work will provide insight to policy and decision-makers on how we can redirect funding that bolsters community care and alleviates the overburdened acute care system. I believe the passion that I feel for research was fostered by the encouraging and supportive leadership on my research team. I am grateful I was provided the opportunity to make an impact on real people’s lives through gathering more evidence on an effective approach to end-of-life care.

Conducting this review ignited a personal desire to continue searching for answers to important questions in health care through scientific inquiry and evaluation.

This post relates to the longer article, ‘Does inpatient palliative care consultation impact outcomes following hospital discharge? A narrative systematic review’ by Mary Scott, Nicole Shaver, Julie Lapenskie, Sarina R Isenberg, Stephanie Saunders, Amy T Hsu, Peter Tanuseputro, published in Palliative Medicine 2020 Volume: 34 issue 1; page(s): 5-15. Article first published online: 4 October 2019. Issue published: 1 January 2020.

Listen to a podcast with Mary Scott providing a personal interpretation of this article:


If you are currently an Individual or Associate EAPC Member you have full access to the Members Only Area of the EAPC website, and the chance to download a free PDF of all ‘Editor’s choice’ articles and many other papers too.  Just click here, enter your email address and membership password and choose from the list of journal articles in 2020.

How to join as an Individual/Associate Member, or to renew your membership

  • Individual members are invited to join the EAPC or renew their membership here.
  • Associate Members – all current members of our National Associations are invited to join the EAPC or renew their membership for FREE. Click here.
This entry was posted in EAPC-LINKED JOURNALS, Palliative Medicine: Editor's Choice, RESEARCH and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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