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'Listen to the voices of patients and don’t limit yourself'

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Selina Jarvis was dedicated to improving the quality of patient care before she even entered the nursing field.

Selina jarvis

“Somehow I wanted to make a difference,” she says. “At the forefront of my mind was ‘how can I improve patient care?’”

Ms Jarvis had already received her master’s in psychology and was practising in the field when she decided to go back to school and become a nurse. She was eager to combine her psychology background with her training to develop a holistic approach to care.

In her first year of training, Ms Jarvis became acquainted with long-term conditions, particularly heart failure, and the challenge such conditions posed for patients and medical staff. It was then that she decided to specialise in cardiology.

“I started thinking that this is the area where I can make a difference,” she says.

During her summer holidays, Ms Jarvis traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, and a year later to Yale University, where she spent three months conducting research training in addition to juggling two rotations serving as a nursing scholar.

“I thought, ‘I’m determined, I have to educate myself, I have to go somewhere I can get a little more training and to understand this long-term condition’,” she says.

Ms Jarvis, an honorary research and audit nurse at King’s College Hospital, became especially attentive to communication with heart failure patients during her time as a nurse on a cardiac ward. The discharge and particular lack of understanding of self-care of heart failure patients stood out to her.

“I was trying to explain to them as much as possible, but clinically when we’re working it is so busy and it is not possible to care to all in an extensive manner,” she says.

She began conducting research in surveying patients admitted with heart failure on their care experiences; particular those of black minority and ethnic patients (BME).

“I wanted to see when they are coming into acute care with heart failure, what is their voice, what is their experience.?” Ms Jarvis says. “What do they want to know?”

Ms Jarvis’s work earned her the Mary Seacole Development Award in 2014, which celebrates healthcare projects that benefit the health outcomes of people from black or minority ethnic communities and is dedicated in honor of Mary Seacole, a Jamaican-Scottish nurse and celebrated Victorian heroine for her work and care of patients during the Crimean War.

In addition to receiving the award Ms Jarvis has gone on to present her work at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) International Research Conference as well as the European Society of Cardiology Heart Failure conference where it was chosen as a highlight of the meeting by the chairman of the ESC Science committee.

Ms Jarvis discovered one reason for the rate of re-admittance for heart failure patients being so high was due to poor patient knowledge on their expected self-care regimen.

“Most patients who come back haven’t fully understood their own medication before discharge,” she says. “Especially with heart-failure as a long term condition, self-care is paramount.”

The key is communication says Ms Jarvis; explaining what you are doing, how the procedure will work and the expected impact on the patient. This communication will in turn relieve patient anxiety, improve their understanding of their self-care and hopefully lessen the financial burden on the NHS by lowering hospital readmissions of heart failure patients.

Ms Jarvis is now continuing her research in pursuing her PhD at Kingston St. George University and encourages all healthcare professionals to get involved with their own research.

“My message is, listen to the voices of patients and don’t limit yourself,” she says.

All too often Ms Jarvis says she has doctors and nurses tell her they don’t have time to do research or that it the time to do so in their career to do so, but Ms Jarvis is optimistic.

“You can do research anytime,” she says “You can make a difference. Already you are making a difference clinically.”

She expresses that taking part in clinical research will give medical staff insight and therefore enhance patient care.

Ms Jarvis is hopeful that if she was able to go back to school at a mature age and begin her nursing career, so can others. She aspires to be able to serve as an example, and inspire younger nurses that they too can make a difference in research.

Elizabeth Meuser

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