Chance patient encounter leads to PhD research project

Elizabeth Gatonga stands in a hospital corridor
Clinical Supervisor Elizabeth Gatonga
October 30, 2020

Working as a nurse in the surgical specialties unit at Fiona Stanley Hospital, Elizabeth Gatonga had her first encounter with a total laryngectomy patient.

“I found the procedure to be overwhelming for the patient and their family members and I was also quite shaken seeing a person breathe through a whole in their neck,” Elizabeth said.

The Clinical Supervisor then began researching total laryngectomy, and identified limited qualitative studies globally, none of which were conducted in Western Australia.

“As I was in the process of identifying a PhD topic, I decided to explore the experiences of these patients following discharge from the hospital,” she said.

“Following total laryngectomy, literature focus is on the biomedical model which concentrates on symptoms rather than the experiences and impact of total laryngectomy, yet they are equally significant.”

The study aims to explore the lived experience from the patients’ perspective and anticipated outcomes include providing evidence for the design of effective interventions to support patients as well as their carers or families following a total laryngectomy, enhancing the psychological wellbeing of patients and improving the quality of post discharge care.

“Research is essential in all fields, as it adds to existing knowledge, identifies and closes gaps, and also ensures delivery of evidence based care to our patients,” Elizabeth said.

“Through my research I really wanted to give a voice to this particular group and also improve their experience post operatively.”

Read more about research conducted across South Metropolitan Health Service in its 2019 Research Report (external PDF 4.1MB).

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