kate clrk

(Left to Right: Kate Clark, Dr Mercia Spare, Chief Nurse Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust)

As part of the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) Research Week 2023, we invited Kate Clark, Physiotherapy Professional Lead at Kent Children Therapies & East Sussex Children’s Integrated Therapies, Kent Community Health Foundation Trust (KCHFT), to share her reflections of completing the KCHFT Research Champion Programme at the University of Kent and explain how this has helped her reach into research, further her study and expand her career.

Kate told us: “I have always been interested in research and I Love it. In fact, the KCHFT Research Champion Programme with the University of Kent has enabled me to rekindle my drive to be actively involved in clinical research, enabled me to return to the discipline of studying, which, I believe, has helped me to progress and enhance our service within Children's Therapies.

In this interview, Kate tells us how the programme involved learning and carrying out scoping review search methods which have helped her inform her own practice and build skills by addressing her research question 'A narrative literature review to evidence the effectiveness of paediatric physiotherapy Telehealth'. 

Q: Has this work had an impact on your practice and how?

Yes, within our team I have actively participated in developing a new hybrid service delivery model with opportunities to use Telehealth and pool resources across our team.

The research highlighted the importance of our terminology, i.e. Telehealth as opposed to virtual, online or Telerehabilitation. The scoping review helped identify the benefits of Telehealth for services which included:

  • To share a window of a baby/child/young person in their own environment' by tailoring the approach, so that the caregiver is more actively facilitating the patient with their own toys in their own setting.
  • Optimal ways of blended/hybrid models of care for service delivery, through a coaching style and family centred approach which is more accessible and sustainable in effective early interventions.
  • One particular piece of research done by Camden and Silva (2021), was a survey to measure the uptake of Telehealth and whether support was required to implement it. the work highlighted a practical application tool called 'VIRTUAL' for implementing Telehealth which included viewing, information, relationships, technology, unique, access and legal and 'sharing a window of a child's own environment'.
  • A mixed methods study by Gefen et al. (2021), in children aged three months to 20 years, highlighted benefits and positive themes of best practice in Telehealth, however, it also highlighted a 'lack of water fountain time' in colleagues and families with reduced collaboration and lack of face-to-face working – this highlighted the importance of considering the health and wellbeing of our team and the children and families we serve.

Guiding Principles Framework for Implementing Telehealth in Paediatrics

Full article here.

As part of this, I have also promoted the importance of having an iPad for families to use within Integrated Therapy sessions including Physiotherapy appointments at our bases to improve digital innovations and access.

Q: What else have you achieved?

As part of starting a bespoke Masters within Community Paediatrics, this experience has helped me to demonstrate the four pillars in my practice role across leadership, clinical practice, education and research. I also gained new knowledge in research skills with enhanced IT, MSc credits, and created a lovely poster. On reflection, I feel it all contributed to my confidence to successfully progressed into a new role as Physiotherapy Professional Lead in KCHFT Children's Therapies in Kent and East Sussex.

Q: What do you plan to do next?

To establish myself in my new Physiotherapy Professional Lead role because it is trail blazing across two counties, with a colleague, in a dual role. Both services need innovation from within, team compassion for each other to enable us to develop sustainable ways of working for our paediatric patients, staff well-being and the planet.

We face increased demand and reduced capacity, therefore, it is essential that we engage in research to underpin evidence-based, best practice.

Q: What are the implications for future practice/research?

I would be keen to explore from the results of my literature review to define which interventions are suited to which patients. Clinical research is one of four pillars that underpin the Advanced Clinical Practice role and I now regularly participate in the KCHFT Research Interest Group (RIG), Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists (APCP) research seminars and research cafe, Kent Sussex Surrey Paediatric Research Network, mentoring a KCHFT Research Champion in cohort 4.

Q: Do you have any final words?

Thank you to Dr Vanessa Abrahamson and Bethany Baldock and my team and Head of Service, for allowing, enabling and facilitating me to fulfil this opportunity.

For further details on the KCHFT Research Champion Programme read here.

Visit ARC KSS Academy’s website to view learning and development support available here.

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