Dr Bárbara Antunes is a Clinical & Health Psychology Specialist at the Cambridge Palliative and End of Life Care Research Group at the PCU. She has just won the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) 2021 EAPC Early Researcher Award for her outstanding contribution to research in the field of palliative care.
What is your research about, Dr Antunes?
In palliative and end of life care, the care provided is not just about making a diagnosis of a physical problem, choosing an intervention and sorting the problem out. Given that there is no cure for the advanced disease and comorbidities alongside it, there are important and deep issues related to psychological, emotional, spiritual, and existential issues that play a critical part in each patient and family trajectory and quality of life.
Even after the patient’s death, the palliative care team will continue to support the bereaved and we know through extensive research that how they perceived their loved one was cared for, will have a huge impact in the quality of their bereavement and how they remember those times and their loved one.
I think we need robust evidence to show the quality of care provided by palliative care services and that the chosen interventions are indeed the most adequate for each patient and family.
Healthcare professionals may feel they are providing the best possible care but have no objective way of showing it. They may feel they need and want a quantifiable way of showing they have made a difference in that patient and their family’s life.
So in my research some of the questions we’ve tried to answer are:
- which measures or tools are there that are able to measure the outcomes healthcare professionals and services want and need to measure?
- what is the best way of measuring them?
- how do you translate that measuring in every day practice and implement it across time?
- how can we maximize all the data collected to best inform, not just practice, at the individual patient level, but also policy at service and system levels?
This is also relevant from the economic point of view, as healthcare systems evolve and must adapt to the aging population and the continued development of new technologies with increasingly tight budgets.
Congratulations on the EAPC Early Researcher Award, for Improving patient and family care using patient centred outcome measures – from development to implementation into practice.’ What does it mean for you?
It means recognition and validation of all your hard work, that what you are doing is useful and that you are on the right path. Most importantly, it is a wonderful moment to thank everyone I’ve been involved with. First and foremost, my family and friends and all those whom I’ve worked with, all the wonderful healthcare professionals who gave their time to participate in our studies, all the patients and families, and our funders that supported us in different ways. It would be impossible not to mention them, as I’m being awarded for something I did not accomplish alone.
What does your typical day at work look like?
I am a research associate, which means I am a full-time researcher. A typical day at work is sitting at the computer most of the day! Thankfully I never have two days alike, as there are numerous activities and tasks to develop and complete!
Apart from sorting emails and attending zoom meetings, I briefly read new research that has come out in my field of interest, I develop protocols for scientific studies, collect data, analyse it, write scientific papers with my colleagues and prepare and deliver presentations at conferences. I also teach and supervise students and will be submitting a project for funding very soon.
At the moment I am enjoying collaborating with some of the PhD students in our group, on their systematic reviews, I am finalising two qualitative papers on the complexities of anticipatory prescribing practice and I am really looking forward to collaborating with our newly formed strategic clinical network.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Collaboration, without a doubt! I don’t think you can do research alone and why would you want to? It’s wonderful to be part of a heterogenous group of lovely people with different experiences, knowledge and backgrounds.
Everything from bouncing new ideas to having someone to discuss something you are stuck with, being able to reciprocate and help when someone comes to you and seeing the work moving forward because we all came together to sort it out is a wonderful feeling.
Knowing you are contributing, even in the smallest amount, to work that can be meaningful and help caring for patients and their families, is a good use of your time. Also, I’ve made friends for life doing this job, I feel I am very privileged.
Tell us a little about being part of your research group, the Palliative & End of Life Care Group in Cambridge – PELiCam – which you joined just before the pandemic?
Being part of PELICam is very special because it’s a wonderful, warm group of people with whom I’ve connected very quickly.
I felt very welcomed when I arrived at Cambridge, but it was when the pandemic hit, country borders were closed, and the lockdowns came that I realised just how lucky I am. We met and continue to meet weekly and check on each other, the WhatsApp group was and is great as we can be relaxed and silly there. We can be very open to share the good and the not so good happening in our lives – if we want to! – and overall it is a very encouraging and safe space which I cherish deeply. I will only add that I am very much missing all the cake and chocolates we had around in the group. You cannot zoom that!
Please introduce us to your research?
This work presents several considerations to have when thinking about implementing a patient reported outcome measure in clinical practice: Implementing patient-reported outcome measures in palliative care clinical practice: a systematic review of facilitators and barriers
This paper presents rapid changes on anticipatory prescribing practice, in the UK, which happened during the first wave of the pandemic, some of which were considered positive changes: Anticipatory prescribing in community end-of-life care in the UK and Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic: online survey
I feel this paper presents many practical considerations on conducting a palliative care feasibility study in the hospital setting: Process Evaluation of a Mixed Methods Feasibility Study to Identify Hospital Patients with Palliative Care Needs in Portugal
About Dr Bárbara Antunes
Follow Bárbara on Twitter @B_CP_Antunes
See the EAPC’s interview with Dr Antunes
Contact for queries: Lucy Lloyd, Communications, Primary Care Unit