Written by Dr Nathan Davies (above in Hong Kong), NIHR School of Primary Care Post-Doctoral Fellow, UCL.
Working as a researcher in academia, one of the great benefits we have is the ability to work with others from across the globe and travel to visit them; sharing our ideas, results and enthusiasm for the work that we do. And this is exactly what I have done recently in Hong Kong and Australia.
In 2011 I started working on a European Commission funded study which had a whole host of leading academics in both dementia and palliative care not just from Europe but even from Australia. It was at this point I met Prof Wendy Moyle from Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia who invited me to visit her and the team at Griffith. I did so back in 2015 and have just returned from my second visit.
On the way to Australia I made a quick but exciting pit-stop at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where I was hosted by Prof Wai Tong Chien at the School of Nursing. In addition to presenting the work I have been doing as part of my NIHR School of Primary Care Research Fellowship, I met with members of the team to understand how cultural variations affect the provision of end of life care, for example a hot topic was the use of feeding tubes in people with dementia. But, it was also fantastic to see how Hong Kong uses the latest technology to train their new generation of aged care nurses, with specifically designed teaching labs.
Following Hong Kong I was in Australia for just over four weeks - although, I must admit it wasn’t all work and I did take a bit of time to have a holiday out there too. For the first part of the trip I was in Sydney and I met with various academics from three different universities; University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, and University of Technology Sydney. I presented some of the exciting work that we have been doing here in the UK, including my work on developing an online support tool for family carers of people with dementia, as part of my SPCR Fellowship. In Sydney I was particularly keen to hear about the digital interventions and trials which are currently underway which focus on supporting families and people with dementia. At UNSW I met with Prof Henry Brodaty and Dr Megan Heffernan who went through their Maintain Your Brain project which is about developing a website for use by teaching people how to manage modifiable risk factors for dementia. We were able to have a lengthy discussion regarding the design of websites but also the challenges of eHealth interventions in academic research, learning some valuable lessons for my own eHealth research. I was also able to meet with Associate Prof Lee-Fay Low who discussed her trial of CareToons which is an online program on management of behaviour changes for carers of people with dementia. These were great learning opportunities to bring back to my own work here in the UK.
Moving up the coast to Brisbane, I spent a week with Prof Moyle and her team meeting and learning a lot from different academics and clinical staff, including Prof Elizabeth Beattie, the Director for the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre: Carers and Consumers. I also visited a long term care facility Jeta Gardens. This was a great opportunity to learn not just about aged care in Australia but also to learn about the architectural design of aged care facilities.
Prof Moyle has a large group of PhD students from across Australia and the rest of the world. I was asked to provide a qualitative methods workshop to get the students thinking about what qualitative research is and how it can work with and alongside quantitative research. This was a great chance to learn about the PhD students’ work and to understand how they could see qualitative methods working within their work, much of which was clinical trials.
I can definitely say this was a fantastic opportunity to have early on in my research career and I left having developed some fantastic connections and learnt a lot not only about research methods and topics, but also about how aged care works in different countries. As part of this trip I am also now supervising a new PhD student studying at Griffith University, conducting a qualitative study exploring end of life care for older adults in Ghana. I will remain in contact with Prof Moyle who is now also a mentor in my future work and new fellowship.