PhD Scholar discusses involving the patient in research from the study design stage


Kieran Walsh, PhD Scholar and Research Pharmacist, UCC

As a research pharmacist, I am interested in understanding the patient’s perspective on issues. For instance, why a patient doesn’t take his/her statin as prescribed, or what a patient thinks about being prescribed antipsychotics. Historically research has been conducted by researchers ‘to’, ‘about’ or ‘for’ patients, with little regard as to what actually matters to the patient.  However, there has been a shifting attitude by the research community towards involving the patient in research from the study design stage, asking them “what’s important to you?” Involvement of members of the public and patients has the potential to increase the utility of findings to both researchers and to patients. My PhD research is focusing on developing strategies to reduce the inappropriate prescribing of antipsychotics in people with dementia, utilising participatory methods.

So, when I saw the advertisement for PG6025, Community-Based Participatory Research, I was naturally intrigued. Although I had no experience of conducting participatory research, I was very interested to get involved, learn the skills and apply them to my own research. The 5-credit module involved a blend of classroom-based theory and discussions as well as on-site participatory activities with our community partners. The cohort of PhD students that I was part of, consisted of a huge range of disciplines from, for example, pharmacy, public health and sociology, and our diverse perspectives enabled rich discussion and analysis. We also received top-class direction from the knowledgeable and enthusiastic lecturers, Catherine, Kenneth and Ruth. Engaging with our community partners was also a really rewarding experience. I felt honoured to listen to their stories and I believe they really enjoyed somebody asking “Well, tell me what’s important to you?” As a group of PhD researchers, academics and community partners, we collectively gathered, prioritised and created novel research questions that were important to this community. These research questions were subsequently answered by undergraduate students the following year to the satisfaction of our community partners.

I came away from the module with a better understanding of the principles of community-based participatory research and strategies for applying them to my own research. As a result of participating in this module, I was better able to engage with my advisory group members who had dementia, and enable true discussions on the issue of antipsychotics. I would highly recommend this module to any PhD student in STEM, Medicine and Health, particularly if you are considering involving members of the public or patients in the design or conduct of your research. I learned valuable skills and knowledge in this unique module, and I also found it a really enjoyable experience.

Module Details
Target Audience: PhD Students
Credit Weighting: 5
Proposed Start Date: Semester Two 2018
Registration and further information: Contact Dr Ruth Hally – email: ruth.hally@ucc.ie

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