Challenges in healthcare education doctoral research

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IDEA 2022
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Deirdre O’Donnell
University and/or Centre: Ulster University / School of Nursing
Supervisor(s): Professor Tanya McCance (Ulster), Professor Sonja McIlfatrick (Ulster), Professor Brendan McCormack QMU, Edinburgh
Area(s) of interest in medical education: The role of healthcare curricula in promoting person-centred practice
Your professional background: Registered nurse.
Member of academic staff
Stage of research (pre-PhD/PhD/post-doc): Post-doc
Title: The challenges of healthcare education doctoral research.
The merits of person-centred practice have contributed to its emergence as a pervasive concept in health care policy (World Health Organization, 2020) and served as an impetus for the promotion of person-centredness in the education of health care professionals (NMC. 2018). Harding et al. (2015) contend that central to the actualisation of person-centred healthcare, is the education of health care professionals for person-centred practice. Despite this, the explicit embedding of person-centred principles in healthcare curricula has been slow to progress (O’Donnell et al, 2020).
This mixed methods study examined pre-registration nursing students’ understandings and perceptions of their person-centred practice, and factors that influenced their learning. The study used a multi-phase, sequential explanatory mixed methods design:
- Phase 1: Modified Delphi technique to develop an instrument to measure students’ perceptions of their person-centred practice.
- Phase 2: A quantitative survey (n=532) to test the instrument and measure nursing students’ perceptions of their person-centred practice.
- Phase 3: Focus groups (n=30) to illuminate students’ understandings of person- centred practice and factors
The findings demonstrate that although students rated their person-centred practice positively from the end of the first year, the same aspects consistently challenged students in each year of study. Factors that influenced students’ learning informed the development of a conceptual model on learning to become a person-centred healthcare professional.
- The complexity of educational research
- Methodological challenges
- Making the findings meaningful
- A ‘thesis with papers’ format.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 7 Apr 2022
EventIDEA2022 - Queens University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Apr 20228 Apr 2022


Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • healthcare education research
  • Doctoral research challenges


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