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Practice-Based Research and Innovation

Care driving inquiry driving care

Aligned to its vision of inventing the future of healthcare, Sunnybrook has launched a Practice-Based Research and Innovation Strategy under the leadership of Dr. Kathryn Nichol. Dr. Nichol has a clinical background in nursing and a PhD in medical science.

“Our focus is on engaging health professionals to critically examine and improve their practice to advance high quality and evidence-based patient-centred care,” she says. “The strategy is founded on the belief that those who directly care for patients and families know what needs to be improved and how best to improve it.”

Supported by donors, the Practice-Based Research and Innovation strategy focuses on two keys areas, building research capacity and infrastructure.

patients listening to doctor

Building research capacity

Sunnybrook awards innovation fellowships and practice-based research seed grants through a competitive process to enable health professionals to critically examine and improve their practice. These opportunities provide the funding, protected time, education and mentoring required to investigate questions of clinical significance that will improve quality of care and patient safety.

Innovation fellowships

Innovation fellowships offer clinicians the opportunity to develop and implement innovative quality improvement projects to improve patient and family care at Sunnybrook. Staff are given two days per week away from their regular positions over six months to work on these projects.

Fellows also engage in weekly seminars where they learn with peers about leading change in a complex academic health organization, how to manage a project and how to engage with stakeholders and members of the interprofessional care team for a successful and sustained project outcome.

Practice-based research seed grants

The grant program provides clinicians with seed funds to perform high-quality research focused on advancing practice for high-quality patient care. Seed grant funds can be used to buy the time of a research assistant to recruit participants and collect data, to purchase equipment or software, or to cover the costs of transcription or poster printing. Two years is allotted to complete each project. Study results are shared through internal presentations and externally through conference presentations and publication.

“The program gives health professionals who have an interest in research and improving care the opportunity to learn about the research process and participate in or lead clinical investigations,” explains Dr. Nichol.

“The experience can also lead to a new career trajectory in advanced practice or in research: essentially we are building our own future leaders and scientists.”

Practice-based research spotlight:

Find out how Sunnybrook health professionals are giving hope to patients with progressive brain tumors through practice-based research »

Hope for patients with progressed brain tumours and their family caregivers

Most patients with high grade brain tumours have a poor prognosis and limited treatment options. These patients and their families can experience a high level of psychosocial distress that includes anxiety, depression and an overall poor quality of life. Given their limited treatment option and poor prognosis, Claire Moroney, a Nurse Practitioner (NP) in the Odette Cancer Centre struggled with how to convey hope to patients during the palliative part of their treatment journey.

As a result, Claire decided to conduct a practice-based research study to investigate the feasibility and impact of Dignity Therapy, an intervention that has been studied and proven to enhance a patient’s sense of dignity and reduce their psychosocial distress in other settings.

Bringing this innovative intervention to a new population at the outpatient setting at the Odette Cancer Centre, Claire and her team were able to give patients a chance to reflect on their lives, think about the lessons they have learned, the wishes they have for their loved ones and the messages they would like to leave behind. A “legacy document” is then created and given to loved ones and family members once the patient has passed away as a means of providing comfort as well as reducing anxiety and distress for patients and caregivers during this difficult time in their lives.

“Many family members have expressed their gratitude in inheriting the legacy document, with some using parts and quotes from the document at funerals, obituaries and weddings to remember their loved ones.”

Find out how the Odette Cancer program is providing opportunities for health professionals to lead practice-based research studies »

Odette Cancer Centre establishes Practice-Based Research Fund

Dr. Calvin Law, Program Medical Director Odette Cancer Centre, and Dr. Kathryn Nichol, Senior Director Practice-Based Research and Innovation, are thrilled to announce the new Odette Cancer Centre Practice-Based Research Fund. This $100,000 gift will provide support for research projects led by point- of-care health professionals in the Odette Cancer Program that are focused on advancing practice and improving patient and family-centred care and experience.

Dr. Barry McLellan, Jan Stewart, Dr. Calvin Law, Ru Taggar, Dr. Kathryn Nichol, Dr. Michael Julius and Arlinda Ruco.
From left to right: Dr. Barry McLellan, Jan Stewart, Dr. Calvin Law, Ru Taggar, Dr. Kathryn Nichol, Dr. Michael Julius and Arlinda Ruco.

The fund is brilliantly aligned with the Program’s strategic goals of providing high quality cancer care and supporting the development of those who work and train in the Program. The fund will also contribute to the Practice-Based Research and Innovation strategic focus of building research capacity across the health professions and embedding research into practice. The fund will be expended over 10 years, providing support for two practice-based research projects per year. Research projects will be identified through the annual call for proposals of the Practice-Based Research and Innovation Seed Grant Program. 

Building research infrastructure

Dedicated research positions for health professionals are essential to advancing practice-based inquiry and improving patient care. This infrastructure provides the support and resources needed for health professionals to develop and sustain new, innovative and productive programs of research that are focused on advancing the practice of their profession and assist Sunnybrook to meet its accountabilities as a research hospital.

Aligned to corporate strategic priorities and in partnership with Sunnybrook and our University partners, the following Health Professions Research Chair positions have been identified as priorities: