Sheffield student wins national award for innovative palliative care research | New

A medical student from the University of Sheffield has won a national award for her research into understanding patients’ experiences and needs in palliative care.

  • Isabel Leach, a medical student at the University of Sheffield, received the National George Lewith Award from the School of Primary Care Research at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)
  • Isabel’s innovative research highlights the needs of palliative care patients and makes recommendations to help improve their healthcare
  • Study results show that there are barriers to understanding the terms palliative care and prognosis uncertainty and that open and compassionate communication is essential for patients and their caregivers

A medical student from the University of Sheffield has won a national award for her research into understand the experiences and needs of palliative care patients and the impact on their health care.

Isabel Leach, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Sheffield, has received the George Lewith Award from the National Institute for Health and Care Research School for Primary Care Research (NIHR SPCR). The annual national award was established in memory of the internationally renowned practitioner, researcher and lecturer in complementary and integrative medicine, Professor George Lewith.

During her research, Isabel interviewed patients and their caregivers and identified that there are often barriers to understanding the term “palliative care” and uncertainty of prognosis. She has found that identifying palliative care needs is a very individual experience where compassionate and open communication is essential. Research has also shown that the implications of identification for future health care vary and that proactive primary care is integral to meaningful identification.

Isabel Leach, from the Department of Oncology and Metabolism at the University of Sheffield, said: “The goal of my research was to understand patients’ experiences in identifying their palliative care needs and the impact this had on their future health care.

“Primary health care teams provide the majority of palliative and end-of-life care in the community and there is growing interest in using palliative care identification tools in primary care to identify patients whose palliative care needs are not being met.

“However, there is no previous research on patients’ experiences and perspectives of being identified as in need of palliative care; this study fills that gap.

“Although palliative care is a sensitive and sometimes upsetting topic, I really enjoyed conducting the interviews and found it a great privilege to listen and learn from people’s stories. »

Recommendations from Isabel’s research include:

  • Consistent education about the meaning and benefits of palliative care should be a priority for members of the public and healthcare professionals.
  • Palliative care identification tools should lead to meaningful conversations with patients about their needs, rather than just a palliative care “label” on patient charts.
  • Better integration of health services is needed to encourage health professionals to work together to more effectively support patients and their families after palliative care needs have been identified.

Dr Sarah Mitchell, one of Isabel’s supervisors from the Department of Oncology and Metabolism at the University of Sheffield, said: “It is fantastic to see Isabel’s work recognized with this NIHR National Award, and a first for Sheffield. It was a privilege to oversee Isabel. She has demonstrated a clear commitment, drive and desire to improve palliative care through patient-centered research.

“Isabel’s research has provided new insights and valuable understanding of patients’ and caregivers’ experience of identifying palliative care needs and the impact on their future health care, whether beneficial or not.

“The work will inform improvements in the identification, delivery and education of palliative care in primary care. Isabel intends to develop patient information, information resources for students who have already had the opportunity to highlight the importance and relevance of her work at national research and policy meetings ( NHS England).

Isabel is set to present her research at the Society for Academic Primary Care Annual Scientific Meeting July 4-6, 2022 and sharing her findings at the University of Sheffield Medical School Annual Research Meeting June 13 and 14, 2022.

In August, she will return to medical school for her final two years of training, but she hopes to continue to be involved in patient-centered research in primary care and would like to pursue a career as an academic general practitioner when she graduates. .

I am passionate about patient-centered research and hope this project will lead to improvements in patient care.

Isabelle Leach

University of Sheffield, medical student

Isabella added: “I am delighted to have received the George Lewith Award for my research examining patients’ perspectives and experiences in identifying their palliative care needs.

“It is an honor to be recognized for my work by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research; knowing that my research has been recognized nationally is really exciting.

“I want to thank all of my supervisors, especially Dr. Sarah Mitchell who has been so supportive throughout.”


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