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Researcher profile – Dr Fenella Gill

Dr Fenella Gill is influencing how nurses deliver care and engage with families, and the patient care experience. She is passionate about paediatrics, critical care, patient safety and consumer engagement to improve patient outcomes and standards of care.

Fenella Gill.
Dr Fenella Gill.

Provide an overview of your research career to date

I completed a Bachelor of Nursing, Master of Nursing (Research), and Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching at Edith Cowan University. My thesis explored how nurses support families in the intensive care setting.

From 1991 to 2010, I worked as a Registered Nurse at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) for Children in clinical nursing, clinical education and postgraduate education. During that period I was involved in a number of research studies addressing family support in hospital, implementation of evidence to practice and postgraduate nurse education and clinical practice assessment.

I studied at Curtin for a PhD from 2011 to 2014. After my PhD, I was awarded a National Health Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) Fellowship. I lead research at PMH into parent-initiated calling for help for the deteriorating child. My appointment at PMH now is as a Nurse Researcher to both undertake clinical research and build research capacity for nurses.

How long have you been at Curtin?

I have worked at Curtin since 2007 in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine. I first taught in the Master of Clinical Nursing program, and then coordinated the program from 2009 to 2010. Since completing my PhD, my NHMRC TRIP Fellowship has been administered by Curtin.

Why were you drawn to academia/research as a career?

I always enjoyed teaching registered nurses, particularly in the specialty of paediatric intensive care. In 2000, the opportunity arose to develop a specialty postgraduate course in a Master program that, at that time, was offered at Edith Cowan University.

The course coordinator was Professor Gavin Leslie, who had supervised my Masters research, and who I enjoyed working with. During this period I was involved in implementation research, and saw how research can make a difference to patient care. The Master of Clinical Nursing teaching team moved to Curtin with Professor Leslie in 2007. Soon after I started working at Curtin, I realized that the obvious next step was to complete a PhD.

Dr Fenella Gill is influencing how nurses deliver care.
Dr Fenella Gill is influencing how nurses deliver care.

What are your current areas of research interest/specialisation?

My PhD resulted in practice standards for critical care nurse education, which included providing socio-emotional support for critical care patients and their families. My current research encompasses partnering with parents in the care of their child in hospital.

I lead research on the family’s role in the early recognition of otherwise undetected clinical deterioration. Over the last few years, my projects have focused on meeting the needs of families in hospital using knowledge translation methodologies. The central premise for knowledge translation research is that involving knowledge users as equal partners alongside researchers will lead to research that is more relevant to, and more likely to be useful to, the knowledge users.

Who do you collaborate with?

For knowledge translation, working in partnerships is key, and I work with researchers and clinicians as well as consumers. I work closely with Professor Gavin Leslie at Curtin. For my research translation work, I work with Professor Andrea Marshall at the National Centre of Research Excellence in Nursing and the Menzies Health Institute, Griffith University. For my work in measuring parents’ experiences and satisfaction with care, I work with Professor Jos Latour, Plymouth University, UK.

I also work with Associate Professor Peter Holland at Monash University in research on nurses and midwives’ wellbeing. At PMH, my research work is with Dr Sally Wilson, the clinical research ethics and governance team, clinical researchers, nurses, doctors and the consumer advisory council members.

What have been the challenges and highlights of your career to date?

Career highlights to date include being awarded a highly competitive NHMRC TRIP Fellowship, being an invited academic to Boston Children’s Hospital and presenting on video for OPENPediatrics.

In 2016, I was honoured as a life member of the Australian College of Critical Care Nurses (ACCCN) for my advocacy for critical care nurses, development and contribution to National Standards for Clinical Practice and ACCCN position statements on nurse education and family-centred care. Being appointed as an editor of the journal, Australian Critical Care, has also been a highlight.

It is challenging to establish myself as an early career researcher in the traditional sense. My aim is to combine the clinical environment with the research world. My aspiration is to be appointed into a clinical chair position that will allow me to lead a program of clinical research focusing on implementing evidence into clinical practice.

What are your interests outside of work?

I have a family, a house and a garden, and a more than full time job so there never seems enough time for everything I’d like to do. I’d like to improve my golf. I was a keen cyclist until my most recent crash in 2015, when my injuries prompted me to rethink. Now for exercise I run, walk and go to the gym. I love the Perth lifestyle especially in the summer.