An evaluation of collaborative research partnerships in occupational therapy education

Ward, Kath and Wilby, Helen (2015) An evaluation of collaborative research partnerships in occupational therapy education. In: NET 2015: 26th International Networking for Healthcare Education Conference, 8-10 September 2015, University of Cambridge, UK. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Stimulating interest in research for pre-registration healthcare students is challenging. Ambitions of students to conduct research in practice settings can be deterred by complexities such as acquiring ethical permission, gaining institutional approval or negotiating access to appropriate sites. As a result many students resort to peer-based projects (Kennel et al., 2009). Practice research comes to be viewed as overwhelming and intimidating whilst the contrived and clinically removed nature of peer-based projects reduces interest in research (Crist, 2010). Students come to view research as something that is for ‘others’, those with more experience or with higher academic qualifications (Kennel et al., 2009). Consequently many students qualify without any experience of conducting practice related research and the ensuing lack of skills results in a limited amount of research being conducted by practitioners. Indeed, a lack of skills and confidence in carrying out research has been identified amongst qualified practitioners within the occupational therapy profession (Pighills et al., 2013). This has served to perpetuate a practice-research gap in which scientific research carried out by academics bears little relevance to the realities of practice (Kielhofner, 2005). There continues to be a significant need for the generation of pragmatic knowledge to support clinical interventions and contribute towards the evidence-base (Crist, 2010).

An educational approach aiming to address the practice-research divide was planned and implemented for pre-registration occupational therapy students. This comprised the development of research partnerships involving students, practitioners and university supervisors. It was considered that such partnerships could have mutual benefits. Practitioners working in local NHS Trusts were invited to be involved in collaborative partnerships. They were asked to put forward practice-related topic areas that they would be interested in researching. Once these were identified, students were invited to take part in the projects. Seven research projects were collaboratively designed and executed. Following completion of these, the partnerships were evaluated from the perspectives of all three parties. The evaluation used an action research methodology. Ethical approval was granted from the university and research governance approval was granted from the NHS Trusts employing the practitioners. The findings highlighted a number of benefits for all three parties, as well as some challenges and recommendations for future. The following themes were identified: research with value; developing relationships; professional development; sources of tension.

The partnerships increased students’ confidence and understanding of the research process which may help to overcome some of the issues reported by Crist (2010), Kennel et al. (2009) and Pighills et al. (2013). Experience of conducting practice related research has led to increased motivation and a positive attitude towards future research engagement. Further research involvement from participants in their transition from students to practitioners will be influential in helping to address the practice-research gap described by Kielhofner (2005). This will lead to the generation of pragmatic knowledge to support clinical interventions and contribute towards the professional evidence-base. The partnerships are considered to be a valuable educational approach to build research capacity and therefore worthy of further application on a broader scale. However, since commitment from students is a significant factor in determining success, participation should be optional. The research partnerships therefore need to be promoted in order to achieve greater uptake by students. The challenges that were highlighted can be addressed through the development of guidance around the definition of collaborative partnerships, documentation of roles and responsibilities, communication procedures and formal written agreements/contracts. Furthermore, the establishment of guidelines around the responsibility to disseminate the research findings and subsequent recommendations arising from the partnership projects would be valuable. Future evaluation will investigate the impact of collaborative research projects on practice development.

Crist, P.A. (2010) Adapting research instruction to support the scholarship of practice: practice-scholar partnerships. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 24: 1, 39-55.
Kennel, S., Burns, S., Horn, H. (2009) Stimulating student interest in nursing research: a program pairing students with practising clinician researchers. Educational Innovations, 48: 4, 209-212.
Kielhofner, G. (2005) A scholarship of practice: creating discourse between theory, research and practice. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 19: 1-2, 7-16.
Pighills, A.C., Plummer, D., Harvey, D., Pain, T. (2013) Positioning occupational therapy as a discipline on the research continuum: Results of a cross-sectional survey of research experience. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 60: 4, 241-251.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments: Rehabilitation
Additional Information: Part of theme session 'Research in healthcare education'.
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 11:02
Last Modified: 11 May 2019 18:02
URI: http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/4754

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