Dr Liz Lees-Deutsch, Consultant Nurse in acute medicine at Heartlands Hospital was the first nurse from the then, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust to receive a Doctoral Research Fellowship from the National Institute Healthcare Research (NIHR). Since then Liz’s research career has gone from strength to strength.
Liz explained: “NIHR training awards focus on three things, the person, their research idea and the organisation they work for. Completing and being awarded a PhD is only one part of it.” She is keen to acknowledge how the whole process was only made possible with the support of her colleagues, MIDRU (the Medical Innovation Development Research Unit) and the vision of the team in acute medicine.
The NIHR requires assurance that individuals receiving training awards will be supported to return to their employing organisation in a clinical academic role. Towards the end of the Fellowship acute medicine Clinical Lead, Dr Ariyur Balaji and the then Chief Nurse, Sam Foster, confirmed that on completion of her PhD, such a role would be possible for Liz, linking clinical work with research and service development in acute medicine. While this type of role was being developed at a national level, at the time it was completely new for a nurse at the Trust.
Liz studied at the University of Manchester and she even got to travel as far as Australia, Canada and Hong Kong to make comparisons of practice and teach. Her PhD thesis was on the topic of ‘patient assessment for discharge from hospital.’ Liz said: “I wanted to understand how patients were assessed for their discharge in the acute medicine environment, which is different from a customary ward, due to the speed of the discharge process and patient flow, and the plethora of teams who accelerate discharge.”
Liz created a ‘synthesised discharge risk assessment instrument’ which is suitable for acute environments and which she is currently in the process of testing.
Since completing her doctorate, Liz has progressed to secure a West Midlands Post-Doctoral Bridging Fellowship, funded by Health Education England, hosted by the University of Birmingham and supervised by Professor Annie Topping. Liz said: “It’s early in the process, but the idea is that I will develop an application for a Clinical Lectureship, to continue my research interests and training for the benefit of patients. I now have an Honorary Lecturer post at the University of Birmingham, which is crucial, as immediately after completing a PhD, collaboration with other researchers will strengthen my contribution to research.”
Since returning to acute medicine, together with nurse colleagues, she has led the development of a new education programme for nurses, called PANDA (Programme for Acute-Medicine Development Accreditation) the aim being to address some of the underlying issues surrounding nurse recruitment and retention. Liz and her colleagues are also six months into developing and testing a structured, evidence based risk assessment for discharge on Ward 22 (acute medicine) at Heartlands. The nursing team led by Andrew Coughlan have participated in this research to determine the usability of the risk assessment in practice. Keen to spread the credit, Liz added: “Together with Julia Jackson, Matron, and clinical lead, Dr Balaji, we have also been working on the introduction of Criteria-Led Discharge on the ward.”
Ultimately, Liz is keen to inspire others to follow in her footsteps by leading research and including it as a core part of what they do in their daily practice.