UA10 is located in the School of Health Sciences in the Faculty of Social and Health Sciences and Education. Research activities in UA10 are organized through four internal Recognised Research Groupings (RRGs). The rationale for the formation of these RRGs is for staff to focus on areas in a disciplined and organised way and to build on our strengths. RRGs provide a forum for the dissemination and sharing of ideas and for a concerted approach to setting research agendas and submitting proposals. Each RRG is allocated funds from the UA 10 Research Strategy Budget for this purpose. Although the RRGs are within UA10, membership includes a number of other disciplines such as general practice, sociology, psychology, social work, rehabilitation sciences, epidemiology, education and informatics and staff from the service sectors. UA10 as a whole thus spans a range of theoretical and methodological expertise. The RRGs are:
Needs Assessment (Grants awarded: 14)
Needs assessment of patients and professionals both in hospital and community settings is crucial to the organisation and delivery of quality care and treatment and is the focus of this RRG. This group’s strength lies in the use of a range of methodologies in the assessment of needs in a variety of settings, with different client groups and with different conditions. In particular, these researchers have made a significant contribution in developing or testing scales and other measures including a Scale to Assess Control in Pain Management during Labour (Wright), and a Scale to Measure the Perception of Control for those with Diabetes (Coates).
Coates (RRG leader) is a recognized Principal Investigator with the HPSS R&D Office in NI. Her work on diabetes with colleagues from other disciplines (Bunting from Psychology and Flatt from Biomedical Sciences) is recognised nationally and internationally. She has recently been awarded a grant by the R&D Office (NI) for a project on the Efficacy of self-monitoring of blood glucose in patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus. This study started in 2001. Kernohan developed a kinesiological method to help assess neonatal hip manoeuvres. Other contributions from this group include studies by McCaughan (new part-time staff) assessing the level of competence and educational needs of medical and surgical nurses working with cancer patients. She has also assessed information needs of patients who received chemotherapy. This work is being extended to the assessment of fatigue in chemotherapy patients by nurses and medical oncologists. Boore’s work also focused on the assessment of fatigue in persons with renal failure and on the exploration of caring, from different theoretical perspectives. Boore plays an important part in developing young researchers. Fitzsimons (part-time staff) assessed functional ability and psychological status of people waiting for by-pass surgery. Currently there is great emphasis on the importance of using research in practice. Parahoo’s work on the utilisation of research by nurses is at the cutting edge of research in this area. His large-scale project examining the extent of research utilisation by nurses in a variety of settings and on the effects of educational programmes on the use of evidence was commissioned by the National Board for Nursing in Northern Ireland. His findings have direct relevance for nurses worldwide. The recent addition to this group of McCormack will considerably strengthen research already underway. In particular, the assessment of needs of older people will become a primary focus, building on his work at the RCNI on the development of an Older People Assessment Tool. This will complement research by Ryan (part-time staff) on needs of families and carers of older people.
Primary Care (Grants awarded: 26)
This group is currently led by a general practitioner and its members come from a variety of disciplines and professions including health psychology (Whittington), health economics, general practice, epidemiology (Dolk), social work, social policy, biomedical science (Mulholland) and nursing (McKenna, Poulton, Parahoo and Brown). The Primary Care group has been extremely successful in attracting research grants, reflecting the national and international calibre of the researchers in this group. The other members of this group are entered in their appropriate UAs. McKenna's work on research and theory is widely known as is his expertise on quality assurance, audit and skill mix. His projects include: Mental health promotion; Northern Ireland Hospice quality assurance audit; Midwifery skill mix project; Dependency levels and skills mix; Evidence-based practice in primary-led health care; Community psychiatric nursing; Smoking in nursing; Development of primary care nursing and the Waterford development project. Poulton’s research addresses the important issue of how primary care teams work and what makes them effective. Her work is of multi-professional relevance and this is reflected in her publications in nursing and other journals such as the British Journal of General Practice and Journal of Interprofessional Care. Her research projects include: Policy and practice in primary care; The contribution of nurses, midwives and health visitors to the public health agenda and Primary care development initiative. Whittington has substantial experience in working with nurses and other health professionals. Her work on teenage pregnancy and on quality assurance is known nationally. Her projects include: Adolescent reproductive behaviour, Primary care needs assessment, Foyle health promoting trust initiative; Shankill health profile; Evaluation of the service provided by the Industrial Therapy Organisation and Needs of patients with multiple sclerosis and their carers. Parahoo’s current projects include Smoking and pregnancy and the Evaluation of GP out-of-hours service. Important recruits to this group are Dolk (Professor of Epidemiology and Health Services Research jointly funded by UU and the Ulster Community and Hospitals Trust) and Mulholland, newly appointed Director of Lifelong Learning. Dolk brings with her an impressive record of grant acquisition. She has an international reputation for work on congenital malformation and pollution and has published in high-impact journals. Her expertise will be extremely valuable to this multi-disciplinary group. Mulholland brings much needed expertise in biomedical research. These strategic appointments open up exciting and challenging prospects for advancing knowledge in Primary Care.
Health Care Informatics (Grants awarded: 7)
The Health Care Informatics Research Group comprises staff (from a number of disciplines) who are committed to the use of information technology to promote the advancement of medicine and health care. It evolved out of the ACTION project (Assisting Carers using Telematics Interventions to meet older people’s Needs). ACTION was a 36-month EU project (completed in this RAE period) funded within the TIDE programme (Telematics for the Integration of Disabled and Elderly people). It obtained the largest grant (3.4 million ECU) for a nursing project in the EU Fourth Framework. This project spanned five countries (Northern Ireland, Sweden, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, and England). Publications in peer-reviewed journals are in progress. Chambers, who has major experience in informatics and mental health, leads this group which also comprises Kernohan and Ryan. Chambers along with colleagues from informatics, science, business, industry, Queen’s University of Belfast was, through the process of external peer review, successful in obtaining grants to establish the Northern Ireland Centre for Health Informatics (NICHI). NICHI, of which Chambers is the Co-ordinator, is one of ten such national centres established by the Office of Science and Technology. Current projects include: Supporting elderly people to encourage medication compliance before early relapse; Supporting young people with schizophrenia through effective multi-media and integrated communication; Women’s experience of lived depression: learning through telematics and workshops; Empowering young people through technology: an evaluation of a drug education programme using multi-media and Telematics Support for Parents of Neonates.
Learning Disability (Grants awarded: 9)
This multi-disciplinary group is led by a psychologist (McConkey) and comprises two nurses (Barr and Slevin), a social worker and an occupational therapist. The group’s emphasis is on using research to promote “Better lives for people with learning disabilities”. McConkey has over 30 years experience of working with people with learning disabilities. McConkey’s focus is on communication between staff and clients and also on the evaluation of new community-based services. His work has relevance beyond local and national boundaries. Barr has examined how the needs of people with learning disabilities are met by community services. He has pioneered work which examines police attitudes and behaviour towards this client group. He is currently researching public attitudes to genetic research with relevance to learning disabilities. His work is internationally and inter-professionally relevant. Slevin has also examined attitudes of nurses and service providers, and has extended his PhD work on challenging behaviour, to the evaluation of therapeutic interventions with people with learning disabilities. Current projects (among others) include: Treatment services for people with learning disabilities (with the Eastern Health and Social Services Board and Northern Health and Social Services Board); Enhancing communication with adult persons with learning disability (with a Speech and Language Therapist); and Meeting the needs and aspirations of persons with learning disabilities and their elderly carers through adult family placement schemes.
Mechanisms and practices for promoting research
Key mechanisms and practices for sustaining and developing an active and vital research culture have been initiated since the 1996 RAE. Staff research development needs were assessed and training and support packages were offered in: submitting research proposals, writing for publications, research skills, infrastructure to support data analysis, transcriptions and word processing. A programme of seminars was delivered, including the ‘relationship between research and theory’, ‘focus group interviews’ and qualitative and quantitative data analysis. Funds are available for courses and for inviting specialist lecturers/visiting scholars. Teaching relief for research active staff enables them to meet targets and deadlines. Funds are available for research active staff to present their research at conferences, nationally and internationally. During the period 1996-2000 staff attended conferences in a number of countries including: Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Jordan, Malta, New Zealand, Taiwan, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Austria, Chile and USA. Each year a number of staff, postgraduate students and research contract staff present papers at the RCN Annual Research Society Conference and at other national and international conferences. International experts are frequently invited to contribute towards the teaching and research objectives of the Nursing Group. Between 1996 and 2000 invited speakers included: Prof A Meleis, Prof M Dougherty and Prof L Cronenwett and Dr R Ludwick from USA; Prof A Botes from the University of Durban, South Africa; Prof I Hallberg from Sweden, Prof A Kitson, Prof M Nolan, Prof D Thompson, Prof D Pereira-Gray and Dr AM Rafferty from the UK.
The nature and quality of research infrastructure for postgraduate research students
Currently 60 research students are undertaking MPhil, PhD, or DNSc programmes. This substantial increase in postgraduate numbers has been supported by the Vice-Chancellor’s Studentships, the DOH (Eire) studentship scheme, the All Ireland Nursing Research Fellowships, the Smith and Nephew Foundation fellowship, the HPSS R&D (NI) Research Studentships and the Mona Grey Studentship (an endowment). Twenty-seven (45%) hold studentships or fellowships. The ratio of externally to internally funded studentships is currently 3:1. Additionally students have received awards from the Florence Nightingale Foundation and the Prostate Research Campaign UK. Overseas and EU full-time research students have increased from none in 1997 to 15 in 2000 from countries including Taiwan, Jordan, Greece and the Republic of Ireland. The first professional Doctorate in Nursing Science (DNSc) programme in the UK was established in 1995. It provides an alternative route to the traditional PhD. To date twelve students have been admitted to the DNSc programme and two students have graduated. To support post-graduate students, a Faculty Research Graduate School (FRGS) was established in 1998. It has drawn up guidelines (based on QAA recommendations) for student supervision and support and provides general administrative support for staff and postgraduates in the Faculty. It is responsible for postgraduate accommodation and equipment, support for conference attendance, arranging research methods training and formal assessment of progress at three points during a postgraduate’s career. The Research Co-ordinator liaises with the Head of the Research Graduate School to encourage postgraduate applications, identify funding opportunities and to assess and generally support postgraduate development. An induction programme designed to introduce students to research at postgraduate level takes place every year. Two-day residential workshops on ‘supervision of postgraduate students’, organised annually in conjunction with the University’s Staff Development Office, are offered to staff. Postgraduate students and their supervisors are encouraged to publish and present conference papers jointly. The FRGS also organises residential postgraduate conferences at which students present their research to staff and other students. Feedback is given by a panel, which also assesses students’ progress.
The Research Co-ordinator also runs methodology seminars for students, their supervisors and research contract staff. Prof M Dougherty, from Chapel Hill, UNCSON, held a number of sessions on research methodology for postgraduate research students in 1999 and 2000. Prof M Sandelowski (from the same university) and a world expert in qualitative research, will be holding a number of workshops on qualitative research in June 2001 at UU for staff and postgraduate students. Research students are supported financially to present papers at local, national and international conferences. During 1996-2000, papers were presented in Dublin, Amsterdam, Jordan, London and Sheffield. In 2000 two PhD students attended a two-week European Doctoral Workshop at the University of Surrey. Four Universities (University of Ulster, University of North Carolina, University of Toronto and Lund University, Sweden) have agreed to host, in turn, an annual one-week International Doctorate Workshop on a selected theme. Each year three students and two members of staff from each country will take part in the workshops (to begin in June 2001) which are designed to promote international collaboration between the four countries. Other financial support includes help with transcription of interviews, photocopying, data analysis, access to telephone and internet, postage and travelling to attend courses. Students registered for MPhil and PhD programmes can also access freely any module offered by the University. Many of them have attended the ‘Theoretical and Advanced Research’ modules offered on the DNSc programme. An experienced and qualified English language lecturer (who is also a nurse) provides cultural, linguistic and educational support to overseas research students. The supervisory process is well structured. Guidelines for the ratio of supervisee-supervisor (maximum 6 FTE’s per member of staff) and a proforma for recording of meetings between student and supervisor have been developed, monitoring content, frequency and duration of meetings and targets/objectives set. Students and supervisors sign and retain a copy for their records.
Overall the strategy of UA 10 in relation to students is to provide as much support as possible to enable them to complete their studies successfully, on time, and to create a culture of enquiry in which they can grow and develop and maximise their potential in researching, publishing and presenting papers. In turn, these students, by their numbers, activities and energy, help to enhance a research ethos in the Nursing Group, in the University at large and in the Province.
Arrangements for interdisciplinary research
A particular strength of UA10 is its emphasis on multi-disciplinary research. Over a quarter of publications in this submission are in non-nursing journals. Staff in all four RRGs collaborate with colleagues from other UAs. Thus Primary Care staff are involved in funded projects alongside colleagues from Social Policy, Social Work, Health Economics, Human Geography and Informatics. Needs Assessment members collaborate with Research Groups in the Biomedical Sciences (with 5* rating in the last RAE). As mentioned above, a number of staff in UA 10 are non-nurses and come from varied backgrounds. Where appropriate, postgraduate research students are supervised jointly with lecturers in other departments.
Relationships with health care and related fields or other research users
UA10 has excellent research links with the DHSSPS (NI), with the four Health and Social Services Boards, with GP fundholders and consortia, with Trusts, and with a broad range of voluntary and independent sector agencies. Kernohan was seconded as Research Liaison Manager (20% of time) to the HPSS R&D Office in NI. Joint appointments have been established with two HPSS Boards, four Hospitals Trusts, two Community Trusts and three general practices. All these posts have a substantial research component. Current research projects include: Care of older people in Whiteabbey hospital, Community health care nursing in North and West Belfast Community HPSS Trust and Specialist Treatment Services (with two Health Boards and six community health trusts). Three research projects have been set up with Down & Lisburn Trust, one with the Southern & Western Health & Social Services Boards and two with Altnagelvin Hospital Trust. Four research projects are currently taking place on a cross border basis. Recent joint appointments (3 Lectureships in Nursing Research and a Professorship in Nursing Research) have been made in order to reinforce the research activities of UA10 at UU and in the relevant Trusts. The Lectureships are with the Down Lisburn Trust, the United Hospital Trust and the Mater Hospital Trust and the Professorship (B McCormack) is with the Royal Group of Hospitals.
The number of research active staff included in this submission is 20 (18.5 FTE). This significant increase (from 14 in the 1996 RAE) was achieved both by developing existing staff and by creating new posts. During this RAE period one research active staff member, Professor D Sines, left UU. New staff in this submission (Brown, Cutcliffe, Dolk, McCaughan, McConkey, McCormack and Poulton) include experienced and less experienced researchers. Brown shows early promise and two of his publications are included in RA2. The emphasis, however, has been on recruiting experienced staff. The recent appointments of Cutcliffe, McCormack and Dolk are expected to boost the considerable expertise already existing in the Nursing Group. UA 10 has a development programme for research active, aspiring researchers and contract research staff. All three groups are well integrated in the Nursing Group. They are all invited to join one of the four RRGs and are all supported financially when presenting papers at conferences or attending courses. A system of mentorship operates for research inactive staff. It is recognised that the involvement of some staff in mainly administrative and teaching duties allows other colleagues to spend more time on research. The development programme offered to research contract staff includes an induction session. Their needs are assessed by probational and annual staff appraisals. They have free access to modules and courses and some are registered for research degrees. A number of contract staff have presented papers at conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. They take part in seminars and workshops organised by UA 10. There is also a programme of development and support for younger/new researchers. They are encouraged to join research teams and are given time to learn research and other related skills. Eight are currently enrolled on PhD programmes, including three in this submission (Barr, Brown and McCaughan).
Nursing Research at UU has been very considerably strenghtened during the years 1996-2000. Publications, publications quality, research active staff numbers, postgraduate student numbers and doctorates awarded have all increased substantially. Research income, in particular, rose by 400%. Institutional support has resulted in the appointment of new and experienced researchers. A highly strategic approach has assisted the development of a research culture of confidence and enthusiasm. Our strength lies in our multi-disciplinary approach to research, our commitment to practice-relevant research and our contribution to the knowledge base in nursing. Together all these activities have enhanced our status as producers and disseminators of research of national and international excellence. Future plans will involve building on these achievements.