When research doesn’t provide the results you were hoping for, but the learnings are more than you expected

Associate Professor Melanie Greenwood1, Dr Karen Ford1,2, Mrs Cindy Weatherburn1,3, Ms  Meredith Eberle3, Erin McLeod2

1School Of Nursing, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2THS-South, Hobart, Australia, 3Royal Hobart Hospital, Hobart, Australia


Partnering with consumers to design and evaluate care can provide mutually beneficial outcomes. However sometimes research projects to evaluate care do not go as planned. When this happens, there are still significant learnings, for the research team and also for the broader research community. Reporting such instances is important to grow knowledge and understandings around the conduct of consumer related research.

We undertook an ethics approved study to explore patients’ and their carers experiences of clinical deterioration from the perspectives of hospitalised patients who experienced unexpected deterioration. Management of acutely ill hospitalised patients is an important health priority internationally with the potential to significantly reduce patient harm. The early recognition and management of patient deterioration is part of this. Despite the introduction of safety solutions including early warning scores and critical care outreach teams, patients continue to suffer harm, including avoidable deaths.

Patients’ and carers’ involvement in the early recognition of deterioration are possible ways that healthcare consumers might contribute to their own care and safety. Little is known about the experiences of patients who become acutely unwell and their relatives. Our study hoped the experiences of patients and carers could inform strategies to address the issue.

However, we found recruitment to our study to be very difficult – people’s illness trajectory, their ability to engage with us following discharge from hospital, their cognition and memory all impacted upon their participation in the study, despite their initial agreeance. We would like to present the difficulties and learnings from our study.


Karen is Assistant Director of Nursing, Research and Practice Development, THS-South. Karen is an experienced health researcher, including in the areas of patients’ experiences of care, participatory research, acute and chronic illness and she supervises several PhD and higher degree candidates. A feature of Karen’s research is growing research capacity of beginning/early career researchers.

Melanie is Director of Postgraduate Courses at the University of Tasmania and has a long history of working with staff in the THS. Her research interests are in recognition and response to physiological deterioration and she played a lead role in establishing the MET system at the Royal Hobart Hospital.