When a young patient’s life hangs in the balance, the last thing on the minds of stressed parents, families and patients would be to get involved in research. Or is it? Despite the turmoil, some brave families and children have volunteered to support clinicians in their research by taking part. Dr Padmanabhan Ramnarayan, Clinical Reader in Paediatric Critical Care in the Department of Surgery and Cancer and Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Intensive Care at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and West London Children’s Healthcare, explains why.
I have been a children’s intensive care doctor for over 20 years, and for most of that time, I have been leading research that has involved critically ill children. My patients are young, their parents and families are super-stressed, and most of the treatments are given in an emergency – all of which seem like perfectly valid reasons to not involve sick children in research. Despite this, my experience is that parents and families are overwhelmingly in support of research. Why?
The evidence gap
Since children’s intensive care is a young speciality, much of our practice is ‘borrowed’ from adult intensive care or newborn intensive care. This is not ideal because our patients range from birth to 18 years of age, with diseases as diverse as asthma, respiratory infections, accidents and trauma, sepsis and brain injury. Without high-quality research to guide care, the treatments provided to sick children may not be the best or the most effective. Doctors and nurses, and parents and families, understand this. By agreeing to include their children in research studies, parents want to improve the care provided to future patients.
Professor Sir Peter Barnes FRS FMedSci, from the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), was made a Knight Bachelor in this year’s King’s Birthday Honours “for services to respiratory science.” Sir Peter is Professor of Thoracic Medicine at the NHLI and he was Head of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial until 2017. Here he writes about his reaction to his award and describes some of the current research projects in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
My wife opened the letter “On His Majesty’s Service” as she thought it was a tax demand – I was absolutely shocked to see I had been offered a knighthood. Of course, I was and am delighted with the award. It is very good for respiratory science and medicine, which generally receives little public attention. This is surprising as chronic lung diseases are amongst the most common in the UK, affecting one in seven people and the third ranked cause of death. I would like to dedicate this award to all the brilliant students, post-docs, research fellows, visiting scientists and colleagues that I have worked with at Imperial College London over many decades.
As a chronically under-represented and under-researched group, the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ healthcare staff in the workplace are often neglected. Third-year medical student, Avani Ela Kaura, highlights why it’s imperative that we listen, address and support the specific needs of LGBTQ+ people.
Exploring how work-related stress affects LGBTQ+ healthcare professionals in my recent Letter to the Editor was greatly saddening, and a little dark. However, having been published in The BMJ and reaching a wider audience, my hope is that awareness has been raised, granting volume to these silenced voices. This is especially important as the unique yet varied experiences of LGBTQ+ people are in-genuinely, or more frequently, not explored. Despite being at the dawn of my career, I am keen to pioneer a movement of change.