This is advice I give to people starting out in advanced training in palliative medicine (or geriatric medicine, my other training specialty) when asked about research projects*. It may also be relevant to other clinicians wanting to start out in research. The advice is based on my own experience and from talking to other trainees. One-hundred hours into your project, you do not want to discover that your study design is flawed or your results invalid. This advice may help to prevent that.
- Your research supervisor does not need to be the same person as your clinical supervisor. Unless your clinical supervisor is also a researcher, I would advise looking for someone else to supervise you, who has a research background. They do not need to come from your specialty or profession (although obviously some familiarity with your broad research topic is important). They may be based in a different city or country (although it may create complications with ethics approvals if your supervisor is from different institution).
Your supervisor can guide you through your study design. This improves the likelihood of producing valid results, which you can then publish and add to palliative care knowledge for the benefit of palliative care patients (because this is why we’re doing this research thing, right?)
If you’re not sure where to start looking for a supervisor, ask an academic in your field if they can recommend anyone. If you want to do palliative care research, the Palliverse researcher database is a good place to start.
- Librarians are very helpful. Most hospitals or health services have librarians who can assist you to use search engines, citation managers and other programs more efficiently. The library probably has resources that you don’t even know about.
For many clinicians (including this one), their first foray into “research” is through clinical audit. The other day I was looking for some help to develop a clinical audit tool so, of course, I asked Twitter. The Clinical Audit Support Centre (@cascleicester) based in Leicester, UK, directed me to their Clinical Audit Tools resources – including some helpful interactive tools to assist you in deciding whether your project is a clinical audit, and whether it is “doable”. There’s also some blank Microsoft Excel templates to use in your own audit, a blog and a discussion board, which I am yet to explore.
Do you know of any other useful Clinical Audit tools? What are your views on the sometimes controversial topic of clinical audit?