Katie McCallum

  • Katie McCallumKatie McCallum is from Southwell in Nottinghamshire. She joined Oxford Brookes as a research student in January 2017 and her thesis title is ‘Exploring the quality of death and dying in the emergency department from the perspective of staff and carers.’

    How did you hear about Oxford Brookes University?

    Oxford Brookes is my local university. I have lived in Oxford and worked at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust for 15 years.

    What attracted you to Oxford Brookes University to conduct your research?

    I gained a clinical academic scholarship in December 2017 to allow me to study for my PhD.

    What were you doing before?

    Working as an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in oncology – I am the nursing lead for the John Radcliffe Acute Oncology team. I continue to work in this role part time whilst doing my PhD. Academically, I did my initial training at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, graduating with a BSc (hons) Nursing with RGN. My first MSc was in advanced practice (palliative care nursing) from the University of Stirling, and I was one of the first cohort of Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) fellows from 2014 – 2017, studying for my MSc in Evidence Based Health Care at the University of Oxford and carrying out a practice-based project (‘Improving the care pathway for newly diagnosed cancer patients at the John Radcliffe Hospital’). I graduated from Oxford with a distinction in Nov 2017.

    How easy did you find it to settle into the research environment?

    There is a huge amount of support available to research students. Part of studying at this level is deciding what seminars / teaching sessions to go to and which might be less useful. I feel that the peer support I have received from other research students has been invaluable.

    Tell us about your research.

    I am looking at the experiences of informal carers (relatives, friends, loved ones) when a patient dies in the Emergency Department (ED). There are several examples in the literature of studies where the experiences of nurses and doctors have been studied, but there are very few examples of studies where the carers have been asked for their experiences. 

    As a practice-based clinical nurse, I feel passionately that we need to listen to the voices of the people we care for. When a patient has died, we obviously can’t ask them, so the informal carers are the next best thing; yet, despite concerns being raised about the quality of death and dying in the ED since the 1970s, little has been done to work with the carers to improve things.

    I am planning on using a qualitative case study approach and look forward to getting rich data from the carers I talk to. Ultimately, I would like to design a nursing model for use in the ED with end of life care patients, but the end point will obviously depend on the results I get from my study. Another thing I am passionate about is making my research relevant to practice, and to that end I am involved in the end of life care group at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust as well as being a member of the clinical ethics advisory group at the Trust (CEAG).

    What do you enjoy about being a research student?

    As a research student, the best thing is having the time and space to think and (attempt to!) develop ideas. It is very challenging working clinically at the same time as studying and I have to be very disciplined with myself so that I use my time as productively as possible. I do find that I am working at University most weekends. Building a support network of friends and colleagues is essential. Luckily my husband is completely supportive; I couldn’t do this without him.

    What do you think about the research training offered at Oxford Brookes?

    There is a wide range of research training available. Seminars delivered by other PhD students both from Brookes and internationally, have probably been the most helpful training I have had so far! My supervisors are a great resource too!

    What are your future plans?

    It’s hard to see beyond my next supervision session sometimes, but I do love teaching and would perhaps like to do more of that in the future, although I feel very strongly that I would also like to continue working clinically – after all, the best thing about nursing is patient contact. At some point in the future I would also like to write a novel and have already got several ideas and jot these down all the time.