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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
The pattern of disease, dying and death has changed dramatically in Australia over the last century. In Australia alone almost 160,000 people die every year. Of these at least 120,000 are expected deaths, meaning that access to palliative care could be of great benefit to both the individuals and their families. But ensuring access to quality palliative care for all who need it is not without its challenges. This is why a group of researchers sought funding from National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for the Centre of Research Excellence in End-of-Life Care (CRE-ELC).
At CareSearch we acknowledge and respect the Kaurna people, the traditional custodians whose ancestral lands on which CareSearch located.
Naa Marni? This greeting in Kaurna language translates to ‘Are you all good?’
I recall once walking through a university corridor on my way to give a tutorial, and overhearing some students complaining that they couldn't understand why they had to spend so much time in their course on Aboriginal Health. I was quite shocked by this, because to me the reason was obvious – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die at least 10 years earlier than non-indigenous Australians. How had they missed this vital point?
One of the key goals of the Close the Gap campaign for Indigenous health equality is to reduce the gap in life expectancy and healthcare access between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the non-indigenous Australian population.
New healthcare research is being produced at an exponential rate and the challenges for clinicians to keep abreast of it are well documented. Perhaps less frequently discussed is the question of what happens once relevant evidence has been identified. How does it move from the page to have a tangible influence on patient care or health system outcomes?
Despite the abundance of research evidence available, we know that it is often slow to reach those that need it, and even slower to be implemented. An oft cited time lag is a staggering 17 years! The implication is that patients may be receiving ineffectual treatments, out of step with best practice recommendation, in the meantime. This must inevitably impact on patient safety, quality improvement processes, and healthcare costs across the sector.
Reflecting on what I do and what my responsibilities are as a Research Nurse is quite complex and one single role cannot encompass all the activities associated with clinical research trials.
Protocol development is the first phase of the project, where a team is involved in developing the protocol. From my perspective, knowledge and experience of a research nurse is indispensable in creating a good balance between the needs of the research and the patients involved.
Aileen Collier is a lecturer in Palliative and Supportive Services, Flinders University. Her research sits at the interface of social science and health research and is focused on human agency and safety and quality of palliative care. She also teaches in the Flinders University post-graduate program.
What advice can I offer you about nursing, research and improving health care? Nurses, as the backbone of our health services, need to be highly responsive to direct patient care needs. If improvements in palliative care are to be realised however, we also need to enact what colleagues Jane Phillips and Meera Agar have recently described as “exemplary leadership”. Our health care systems are complex, in constant flux and driven by efficiency and cost effectiveness. We need to take an active role in policy development as well as critically adapting ‘top-down’ policy and evidence-based initiatives within local settings. In this environment, nurses simply cannot afford not to be able to make sense of research findings.