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Candy McCabe
Dr Candy McCabe

Press Release - 26 April 2005

Dr Candy McCabe, PhD - Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases

After a varied career as a nurse, Candy McCabe decided to improve her understanding of the mechanisms behind the clinical practice in her hospital by studying for an MSc and then a PhD.

She says that since completing her research training in 2004, she has been able to develop her career in exciting new areas, help influence policy from a nursing perspective and make a major contribution to the nursing care delivered through the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases where she works.

Dr McCabe is now playing a key role in helping develop the Professional Doctorate in Healthcare at the University of Bath - a new type of qualification aimed at helping healthcare professionals develop research skills and understanding in a clinical setting.

Science behind the practice

Dr McCabe first became interested in the scientific reasons for what she was doing in clinical practice shortly after she started work at the RNHRD. “The more I looked into it, the more I realised that many of the things I was doing were not always rooted in research evidence,” she says.

“I started a Masters course to help me get a better understanding of the science behind the clinical practice. After finishing this course, I realised that I wanted more, and decided to start a part-time PhD project on rheumatic pain.

“It was very tough and the work involved in doing a PhD, especially part time, should never be underestimated. The fact that my PhD was very relevant to my ongoing job meant that the two fed into each other, which made life much easier,” she says.

A direct result of Dr McCabe’s PhD was a novel therapeutic technique for the treatment of a type of rheumatology pain and an associated in-patient programme, both of which were based on research she carried out and have been adopted by the hospital and beyond.

“I have also been able to use my experience to train some of the other nurses and occupational therapists that I work with, which is helping broaden their understanding, at the same time as developing the resources available to the Trust,” she says.

Career development

The experience has enabled Dr McCabe to broaden herhorizons and take up new opportunities for developing her career. She now sits on several national committees where she gets to influence decisions from a nursing and patient perspective, and has her own research collaborations with scientists and clinicians from around the world.

“Having an academic background is incredibly useful both in the clinic and in the roles I have been able to take on since the completion of my PhD,” says Dr McCabe. “It gives me a professional credibility in relation to the academic world that enables me to stand on an equal footing to colleagues from across the healthcare sector.”

She also believes that her deeper understanding of the mechanisms underpinning rheumatic pain have also helped her in dealing with patients. “When patients describe the pain they feel, I can picture more clearly the mechanisms that might be causing the problem and have a better understanding of the treatments that can help,” she says.

Doctorate level study

“Doing a PhD has given me the opportunity to take in a far bigger picture, both at a national and international level, than a trust or community practice could ever provide,” she says.

"The beauty of the new Professional Doctorate in Health is that it combines study for a Masters course, which provides the core introduction to research training, with doctoral level study, so there is no need to do both separately.

“The fact that it includes professional skills, taught by leaders in their field, gives the training a professional and clinical basis that can not be achieved through pure academic study. On the whole, the Professional Doctorate is a more rounded course than a PhD, and is well suited to the needs of healthcare professionals.

“PhDs can become a fairly solitary pursuit of knowledge, but the fact that this course is distance learnt means that people will be able to interact with their fellow students through the virtual learning environment in a way that will be of great benefit to them, allowing them to learn through each other whilst studying at their own pace.

“The arrival of the Professional Doctorate at Bath is very timely because the Government are very keen to develop the role of healthcare professionals in the provision of healthcare. Traditionally this has always been medical-led, but now there is a real opportunity to redress this balance.”

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