Can you tell us about yourself?

I am Niamh Kinsella and I recently completed a postgraduate MSc in Occupational Therapy at Queen Margaret University. I am now studying full time for a PhD which has been offered as part of the strategic alliance between Queen Margaret University and Alzheimer Scotland.

I studied sociology and social policy as my undergraduate degree in Dublin and moved to Scotland in 2013. I have an interest in dementia which comes from both personal and practice experience. I have a particular interest in self-management and a strong belief that everybody deserves to live a full, balanced and healthy life with as much help as is necessary. I feel that occupational therapy has much to offer and development of its evidence base is another step towards supporting people living with disabilities to live a full, happy and healthy life.

What inspired you to study occupational therapy?

During my time studying in Dublin I became very aware of and interested in the social issues that are frequently present across society. I began to question the impact that they have on health and the impact that poor health has on an individual socially. This interest was also inspired by classes in global health and social justice.

I have always been a practical person and knowledge of health and social issues was not enough. I explored my options and spent time volunteering at a respite centre for people living with a variety of disabilities. I decided that occupational therapy was a practical path to take which would allow me to develop my knowledge of health and social issues while also providing the opportunity to work with people in many areas of health and social care.

I understood occupational therapy to be a profession which aligned with my own values which was important to me. I also had some personal experience of the difficulties that a person with a physical or mental health problem may face and began to understand the value of occupational therapy and the very clear link between occupation and good health.

What is your current role?

My current role is primarily in completing a PhD which will involve research into the Tailored Activity Programme (TAP) – a prescription based activity programme for people living with dementia and their care partners implemented by HCPC occupational therapists. I am in the early stages of the research process and am hoping to complete the PhD by September 2018.

As the research progresses I will be involved in presenting and disseminating results to a wide audience on behalf of Alzheimer Scotland. It is expected that the research findings will help to enhance the evidence base for occupational therapists who work with people living with dementia and their carers. I hope that contributing to the evidence base will promote both occupational therapists and allied health professionals as valuable assets in health and social care for people living with dementia.

"Although my PhD journey has only just begun, I have found the prospect of finding positive, encouraging results through studying the tailored activity programme (TAP) in partnership with the occupational therapists currently implementing TAP, and the impact that this may have, extremely exciting and motivating."
Niamh Kinsella

What impact do you hope your PhD will have on people living with dementia and their families?

I am hoping that the results of my research will demonstrate the value of using an evidence-based intervention for occupational therapists and result in an increase in its use. Increased use of such an intervention may then provide people living with dementia and their families with the necessary tools to live well with dementia at home for longer.

In addition, I hope that dissemination of the results of my PhD will result in increased awareness and understanding of the possibilities available to people living with dementia and their families as well as of the difficulties facing them. Awareness of a possibility of living well with dementia may reduce stigma and misconceptions associated with the disease and, hopefully, encourage the wider community to offer appropriate support when necessary.

What has been the best part about being a PhD student?

Although my PhD journey has only just begun, I have found the prospect of finding positive, encouraging results through studying the tailored activity programme (TAP) in partnership with the occupational therapists currently implementing TAP, and the impact that this may have, extremely exciting and motivating. This has been a great start and is a feeling which I hope will maintain my energy and enthusiasm for the research throughout the PhD process. Being a full time PhD student has also offered me time to learn about and understand something which interests me greatly and to develop research skills which I hope will stand to me in the future.

 

You can find out more of the current work in Scotland here:

http://www.knowledge.scot.nhs.uk/dementia/communities-of-practice/national-ahps-best-practice-in-dementia-network/tailored-activity-programme.aspx

I would welcome any comments on my blog or on the work we are developing to research a prescription based activity programme for people living with dementia and their care partners implemented by HCPC occupational therapists.

 

Story published 2016-2017

 

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

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