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Meet Nuno Tavares, Respiratory Nurse at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth and doing his PhD on a subject that most people fear

9 March 2015

How can we talk about death. How research is changing that last taboo.

Nuno Tavares is a Respiratory Nurse and a PhD Student at Queen Alexandra  Hospital, Portsmouth. He graduated as a nurse in 2012 from University in his native Portugal and it wasn’t long afterwards that a recruitment event by Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust brought him and his fiancé to the UK.

A few years down the line and Nuno is working in the Respiratory High Care ward at QA, while his fiancé is in neo-natal care.

“I always wanted to care for people when I was thinking about what job I’d like to do when I was younger. When I qualified I knew I wanted to do research.”

It was a meeting with Greta Westwood, the CLAHRC Wessex training lead that helped him achieve his aim.

CLAHRC is a research organisation focussed on bringing the best research into practice in the NHS. It stands for Collaboration and Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care – CLAHRC Wessex is based at the University of Southampton in the Faculty of Health Sciences and at University Hospital Southampton.

“I was told I wouldn’t be able to do a Master’s degree because I lacked research experience. But then Greta told me about a Clinical Academic Fellowship in Health Sciences at the University of Southampton - which would help me get my PhD.”

Nuno now works 15 hours on the ward and 22 and a half hours on academic study. Professor Tom Wilkinson from CLAHRC Wessex is his supervisor and together they looked at research into the care people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) have as the illness progresses. People with COPD – a group of lung diseases – have trouble breathing because of a narrowing of the airways.

“I want to specifically look at end of life care discussions between healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, and patients with COPD. The development of this research will improve standards of end of life care for people with COPD and their relatives, enable healthcare professionals to start conversations in an early stage, reduce hospital admissions and reduce futile treatments”

The statistics on COPD are frightening half the people diagnosed with severe case die within 2 years. It is the fourth largest killer of people after heart disease, cancer and stroke.

“It’s tragic to see so many people dying from this illness without even having discussed how they would like to be treated at the end of their life.”

Nuno wants to be able to bring what he discovers through research into practice on the frontline of the NHS - in time providing the tools to improve the quality of life for dying patients.

“I think one of the hardest things about COPD is the unpredictability of the disease. People can get very ill very quickly, and it can be too late to discuss what patients or their family want. That’s why we need to have those discussions earlier.”

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