Jacqueline researches what patients’ perceptions are of their safety within an acute hospital setting


Jacqueline Sinclair, Divisional Head of Nursing Liver and Renal Services at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has been awarded a Florence Nightingale Foundation research scholarship to undertake a study as part of a Doctorate in Healthcare. Her study is titled ‘What are patients’ perceptions of their safety within an acute hospital setting? A study to inform the development of a measurement questionnaire.’ We spoke to Jacqueline to find out a bit more about her project.

How did you find out about the Florence Nightingale Foundation research scholarships?
My academic supervisors suggested that I apply for a scholarship to undertake my study as the Florence Nightingale Foundation is keen to support research that directly focuses on improving care for patients.

Can you give us an overview of what your research entails?
My study aims to explore what patients understand by being safe, and how they experience safety. The information will be used to develop a questionnaire for patients that will measure their satisfaction with safety within an acute hospital setting.

Why did you choose to conduct your research on this topic?
My interest in patient safety developed from a traditional understanding of safety arising out of the behaviours of healthcare staff and organisational culture, into one that focuses on what matters to patients. This shift in understanding has resulted from reading studies on patient safety and national reports where serious breaches in patient safety have been highlighted. These include Sir Robert Francis’ report into the failings at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, published in 2013. Sir Robert asked patients and their relatives to speak about their experiences of the care they received. These stories powerfully illustrated where patients and their relatives perceived the gaps in safety were.

I have also been influenced on a more personal level about what safety means for patients. My sister has a rare neurological condition and has spent many years being treated at various NHS institutions. Her experiences of care and treatment has highlighted what is important to patients and the need to ensure their voices are listened to when safety issues arise.

What do you hope to achieve?
Patient safety has become a high priority in most modern healthcare systems as a result of an increasing number of errors. Consequently, the literature on patient safety has focused on the views and experiences of healthcare staff, and how their organisations make safety improvements. Few studies have concentrated on patients’ experiences and their perceptions. I hope that my study will illustrate what aspects of patients’ care matter to them in relation to safety and that the information can be used to better inform staff and organisations about where safety can be improved.

What research methods will you use to achieve your objectives?
I have chosen to develop a questionnaire because a key area of safety improvement is the ability to measure how safe a department or organisation is. Studies where safety measurement tools are used enables organisations to focus on where to make improvements.

I will use both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis and will sample adult patients aged 18 years and over with either a recent elective or emergency hospital admission. The study is in three phases. Within the first phase a critical review of the literature was carried out to inform the design and type of questions to include in the questionnaire. Patients were asked to comment on the questionnaire to ensure that it would be easy for participating patients to understand and complete. In phase two, I will conduct a cross-sectional pilot of the questionnaire with patients, forty-eight hours prior to their discharge. The purpose of this is to validate key themes and refine the questionnaire. Phase three will involve a second pilot of the questionnaire to allow further refinement. Thematic analysis will be used to analyse qualitative data and statistical analysis will be used to analyse quantitative data.

Will the scholarship make a difference to your career?
The scholarship will provide me with the opportunity to share my research within the nursing profession and the wider healthcare setting. This is important to me as I want to raise the profile that patients have in the safety agenda. Furthermore, completion of the doctorate with the support of the Florence Nightingale Foundation will enhance my credibility with senior NHS managers and add weight to my research.

Are there any other comments you would like to make about your research?
I am delighted to have been awarded the scholarship and am very grateful to both the Florence Nightingale Foundation and NHS Professionals for having given me this opportunity.

We will be following Jacqueline’s research progress over the next year and look forward to seeing the results. 

About the author

NHS Professionals administrator

NHS Professionals manages the temporary staffing needs of around 66 NHS Trusts across England. An integral part of the NHS, it aims to reduce Trusts’ spending on flexible workers without compromising quality, by providing greater transparency of demand and supplying bank staff at the best possible rate. Its bank of more than 40,000 flexible workers comprises general and specialist nurses, doctors, midwives, admin/clerical , allied health professionals, healthcare scientists, support services among other healthcare professionals.

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