How did you get started in HSR and what drew you to it?
I have trained and worked as a physiotherapist in stroke rehabilitation for many years before starting my PhD in 2012. When working clinically, I was interested in research (I did my Honours part time while working as a clinician full time) and was very keen to implement evidence-based practice. When thinking about doing a PhD, I met with a number of different researchers to discuss different research ideas, and was very happy when I decided to research how the rehabilitation needs of people with stroke were being identified in Australia, and to investigate different methods to improve this process. My PhD looked at implementation of the Assessment for Rehabilitation Tool, which had been developed by the Australian Stroke Coalition.
During my PhD, I attended mainly stroke and rehabilitation conferences. I was keen to learn more about health services research more broadly, so I was pleased to attend the HSRAANZ in Melbourne in 2015. It was at the conference during drinks that I introduced myself to Professor Gillian Harvey whose work I had read who was working at the University of Adelaide, (I later started working with her in 2016, and am still working with her now)
What was the first project you worked on and where?
I guess my first project would have been my Honours project (I did Honours quite a long time after leaving uni – did this part-time while working as a clinician full time), where I did a randomised controlled trial looking at trying to improve sensation in feet after stroke and whether this in turn affected balance and walking
What are some of the key projects you are currently working on?
I am doing work in the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery looking at researchers’ opinions of research translation – how do researchers define translation, how hard is it, whose responsibility is it, and then looking to see whether there are strategies we can introduce to help boost translation. I am interested in investigating new ways of providing information to carers of people with stroke, so am currently in the middle of ethics to get that project started.
What have been your career highlights so far and why?
I have had lots of highlights – my first conference abstract was selected for a plenary presentation at the Stroke Society of Australasia Annual Scientific meeting in Darwin in 2013, and while I was incredibly nervous for that first presentation in front of what seemed like a huge audience, that was probably a highlight. A definite honour was being awarded a prize for research excellence in 2015 in memory of Renee Sheedy - Renee was a physiotherapist doing her PhD in Victoria, who sadly died from an aggressive brain tumour. Being able to meet her family who had sponsored the prize was a very touching experience. I have met some amazing researchers both in Australia and overseas, many of whom have been really generous with their knowledge and advice, and whenever I meet someone who is inspiring, generous and friendly that is always a great experience
You recently received an NHMRC ECR Fellowship to investigating implementation of 2017 Stroke Clinical Guidelines in inpatient stroke rehabilitation. Can you tell us more about what this fellowship means to you and about this research?
Another highlight was opening that email! Applying for this fellowship took lots of time, both from myself as well as all the people around me who proof-read it, gave advice and feedback and general support. In putting the application together, I was hopeful that I might be successful but very aware that I needed a fall-back plan in case I was not successful. So now I can pursue the research I am really interested in, which is about implementation of stroke rehabilitation guidelines, and seeing if we can develop new robust ways to ensure evidence is used in day to day practice. I am really interested in seeing whether we can tweak the culture of rehabilitation, so stroke survivors and their families are treated as partners in the rehabilitation process rather than being more passive recipients of health care – I think person-centred care happens better in community settings, but is harder to implement in hospital and inpatient rehabilitation settings.
Who has had the biggest influence over your career to date?
Lots of people! My PhD supervisors (Susan Hillier, Dominique Cadilhac, Julie Luker), different managers who have supported and promoted me (Gill Harvey, Dominique Cadilhac, Sandy Middleton), friends and colleagues who have given me support and advice, and who have been great to collaborate with (special mention to Coralie English who has helped me immensely during and since my PhD and encouraged me to enrol to do my PhD in the first place)
What’s next for you in your career?
I would like to contribute new knowledge on how to implement evidence into clinical settings in a sustainable way that takes into account the different skill sets of the people involved and the different contextual factors faced by people in different settings. And I need to be able to explain this in a jargon-free way which will hopefully come soon in my career…
You attended the 10th HSPR Conference on December? What were some of the highlights? Would you recommend it to other ECRs and why?
Yes, the setting was lovely, and I got to catch up with friends from interstate which is always a bonus. I really enjoyed some of the keynote presentations (Roman Kislov and Alison Mudge’s talks were great). I was part of a group delivering a workshop on use of implementation theories and frameworks (with Gill Harvey, Alison Kitson and Alison Mudge) and some of the small group discussions were really useful in highlighting areas of ongoing confusion that we can keep working on to clarify.
I think all conferences are good for ECRs, it is really important to practice presenting our research, and also important to meet other people doing research in our fields
What was your motivation for becoming involved with the HSRAANZ? What services do you find most valuable?
I joined HSRAANZ because I wanted to attend the conference. At the 2015 conference, I attended a session which had some people who had received ECR fellowships which I found really useful in terms of making sure I was setting myself up as well as I could, and I actually worked to change my employment after this. I think some of the learning/PD resources are great eg the upcoming webinar with Trish Greenhalgh.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for ECRs seeking to build a HSR career?
Research in general is a pretty tough gig in terms of job security and work-life balance. Health services research is often not well understood by other groups of researchers I don’t think, and it can be hard to find funding. Discovery research and clinical trials seem to have more excitement and pizazz attached so it is a challenge to sell health services research to some audiences I find.
What do you get up to when you are not conducting research?
I love hanging out with my husband and 2 kids and walking our 7 month old puppy. WOMAD and the fringe festival have just finished in Adelaide and that has kept us all busy seeing some great shows.