How research can improve patient care and advance your career
University of Melbourne PhD graduate Fiona Newall is passionate about helping others - be they patients or students.
"Access to care that can improve health outcomes is one of the biggest assets we have in Australia," says Fiona, who is Anticoagulation Nurse Manager at the Department of Clinical Haematology, Royal Children's Hospital. "To help improve a patient's quality of life starts with investment in research and through recognising that you can help people."
Fiona gained her Masters of Nursing (Research) from the University of Melbourne in 2005 before completing her PhD. She focused on whether children receiving the anti-clotting drug Heparin are getting the optimal dose and monitoring.
"My PhD aimed to improve understanding of how heparin works and how it is managed in children," explains Fiona, who is the first nurse to complete a laboratory-based PhD project at the University of Melbourne.
"Children on Heparin have higher rates of bleeding than adults and higher rates of recurrent clots. However, despite the widespread use of the drug, there is not much that is known about its effect on children. My research helped give us information that can change clinical practice and provide the safest, most effective treatments for children."
Whilst undertaking work as a research nurse with the current Head of Department and Stevenson Chair of Paediatrics, Professor Paul Monagle, Fiona decided to pursue a career in paediatric thrombosis/anticoagulation.
"Thrombosis is a specialised area of paediatrics that requires a high level of critical enquiry when undertaking research," explains Fiona. "There will always be a need for continued learning in this area to help improve the lives of children who have had or are at risk of having a blood clot."
As well as her position at RCH, Fiona is a Senior Lecturer in Nursing Research at the University of Melbourne. She says that despite her busy schedule she finds teaching incredibly rewarding.
"I can't see myself doing anything else as I am constantly learning with the students," says Fiona.
"For me, the main highlight in my current roles has been working with individuals who are as passionate about improving patient care through research as I am."
"In my role as a lecturer it is also about helping students understand not only the importance of research in practice but so many others aspects of the profession including rapport building as well as skills-based practice. The Master of Nursing Science is an excellent means of understanding the importance of research in the field of nursing and helps develop this process of quality improvement in healthcare."
Fiona is also Nursing Representative on the RCH Children's Bioethics Centre, which provides a voluntary consultative service to clinicians about the management of ethically challenging clinical situations.
"This is a multi-disciplinarily service that helps address educational interventions on a range of issues relating to the clinical management of children," says Fiona.
"This includes withholding of life-sustaining treatment, child refusal of treatment and the impact of societal, cultural, religious beliefs upon access to health care. The service is committed to developing a strong research program within this field of practice, and I am grateful to be part of that."
Fiona firmly believes the Masters of Nursing Science program at the University of Melbourne is setting the benchmark for equivalent courses across Australia.
"Our aim in producing nurses who will have a Masters qualification when entering the profession of nursing is to ensure that they are up to the task. It is not enough to have masters graduates who are clinically competent - they must be prepared to function at an advanced level when it comes to questioning whether their practice is 'best practice,'" says Fiona.
"The strong focus upon research training within our program will ensure our graduates are properly equipped to be leaders of nursing in the future. In this area, the University of Melbourne is the leader."