Date: 05 December 2017
Vanora Hundley is Professor of Midwifery at Bournemouth University. She is an internationally recognised midwifery researcher, having written approximately 100 peer-reviewed research articles on pregnancy, maternity care and midwifery. She has led a range of studies in the reproductive health field both in the UK and internationally and she conducted one of the first randomised controlled trials of midwife-led care, which forms part of the Cochrane review of birth settings.
More recent work has examined the role of labour practices and their impact on maternal and neonatal outcomes, both in low income and high income countries. Vanora acts as an adviser to a number of professional organisations including the International Confederation of Midwives and the World Health Organization.
She is passionate about research utilisation and believes that research must be closely linked to both practice and education to ensure that it is both relevant and utilised. In her new role as a joint reproductive health and childbirth specialty for the CRN Wessex, she is able to collaborate with health professionals in all areas of maternity care with the aim of developing robust research that will improve the lives of mothers and babies. In this Q & A, Vanora talks through her exciting new role.
Q: Can you tell us about your background and areas of interest?
A: I’m a midwife with a strong research background; my current role is Professor of Midwifery and Deputy Dean for Research in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at Bournemouth University. I’ve worked internationally, in Semmelweis University in Budapest and in the United States I’ve worked in Houston Baptist University in Texas and in George Mason University in Virginia, in addition to working in the UK, so I’ve got quite a broad experience in terms of working both in practice and in research. I got appointed as specialty lead in April so it’s still fairly new to me but I’ve been in my post at Bournemouth for five years.
My particular areas of interest are around labour care, birth care, and specifically one of my early studies was about midwife-led care. But a lot of my work is around the latent phase, I work with the International Early Labour Research Group which involves researchers across the UK but also from Canada, Australia, Germany and the US, and we’re looking at the latent phase of labour so that’s a big area of research for me.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about the new role?
A: I think it’s the opportunity to bring research, education and practice together closely. One of the things about Bournemouth University that’s unique is that academics work in all three areas so we’re always thinking about bringing our education, research and practice together and how we make it real. The specialty role enables me to bring those areas together more closely, for me to work with healthcare professionals in all areas of practice. And this is very exciting, it enables us to put greater links between the universities and our practice colleagues. We’ve got fabulous links here at Bournemouth University and this role will help me strengthen those.
Q: What will you bring to the role?
A: What I’ll bring to the role is facilitation, it’s one of the things that I really enjoy doing. It’s about helping others to achieve their aims, to achieve their growth, and by doing that, to help them grow as researchers. In addition, helping the NIHR to grow research in this area is a key part of the role, so it’s a win, win if you like.
Q: How will you be working alongside Professor Ying Cheong?
A: It’s a joint role and Ying brings expertise having done this role before, but she’s also from an obstetrics background, perhaps with a different approach to research. From my perspective as a midwife, I’m passionate about getting midwives involved in research, not just collecting data for others but having their own research as well. One of the things that we’ve been doing in Wessex is developing the Clinical Academic Research, ensuring that we have clinical doctorates. We have a lot of those in midwifery, we’ve got 13 across the area and that enables midwives to get the opportunity to begin to develop their own research areas, to actually own their research, and that’s where I will be coming from. In addition, bringing in other disciplines, other colleagues, who haven’t perhaps traditionally been working in reproductive health within this area. I know it’s stronger in other parts of the country, but certainly within this area.
Q: What are your plans and priorities now you're in post?
A: I would like to see more ‘home grown’ reproductive health and childbirth studies in Wessex, particularly in midwifery. We have been very successful in developing a range of clinical studies through the HEE/NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic Programme, which has included our clinical academic doctorates. The next step is to develop larger interdisciplinary research studies that showcase the expertise of midwives and other colleagues in Wessex.
We’ve been looking at trying to support colleagues in terms of a pipeline of research, so that is from early experiences such as the internships that are on offer here in Wessex, through into masters and doctoral programmes, it’s really helping our clinical colleagues take those early steps. Perhaps identifying those colleagues who are interested in research but don’t know where to begin and giving them the skills and opportunities to develop their ideas because that’s where we get really exciting and innovative work, where we get people who are in touch with practice, understand what the challenges are, and want to begin to look at how we can do things better and differently.
Q: Why you think research is important?
A: Research enables us to identify and provide the best possible care for mothers and babies. When research is properly integrated with practice then it can make a difference, not just to those who use the service, but also to those who provide it.
At the end of the day, the most important people are the mothers and babies that we care for. Research is about improving the care, providing the best possible care for those mothers and babies and ensuring that they have the best outcomes. And when we integrate research properly into practice we can make a real difference for them. But we can also make a real difference for the way we do practice, we can make our lives easier as well, we can improve the service which we offer. So I think, at the end of the day, it may be cliché but it’s about showing we provide the best possible care for those people that are recipients of our care.
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