23 March 2022
Spotlight on…Researcher in Residence, Dr Isabelle Latham
We recently caught up with our new Researcher in Residence, Dr Isabelle Latham to find out what her role entails and how it will make a positive impact on all of our homes.
What is a researcher-in-residence?
Researchers in Residence is not a completely new idea, but until recently, they were not well known within the health and social care sector. They are roles where, instead of working within a university department, the researcher sits inside a non-academic organisation, embedded within the teams and day-to-day activities that they are researching.
This has the advantage of helping the researcher to build close relationships and encourage full participation and co-creation of research by those who research affects. This ensures that research is useful and relevant and the findings are more likely to be implemented because the people who are most affected are involved from the very start of the process.
At Hallmark, the Researcher in Residence has three main areas of work, with a particular focus on dementia:
- The researcher will consult on and coordinate our organisation-wide research projects. This will ensure that we know what our residents, families and team members think should be priorities for research and make sure we utilise the experiences and skills within Hallmark to explore ideas and expand our understanding of how best to provide care.
- The researcher will also communicate across the organisation about the latest research evidence and help to translate this into practical knowledge and resources that team members can use day to day to support Hallmark residents and families.
- The researcher will also support each of our care homes to undertake their own ‘Home Action Research Projects’ – where the care home community itself gets to identify, carry out and report on small research projects (with the help of the Researcher in Residence). These projects are about what is important to the home itself, helping each community to grow, individuals to develop new skills and to celebrate and share their good practice with other homes.
How did the role come about?
The idea for the Hallmark Researcher in Residence stemmed from the Alzheimer’s Society/Dunhill Medical Trust funded project: CHARM – Care Home Researcher in Residence Model. One of Hallmark’s care homes took part in this exploratory project, experiencing what it was like to have the support of a Researcher in Residence. It was a great success and Hallmark saw the potential for the role within their organisation, supporting all their homes. However, when the funding for the CHARM project ended, the Researcher in Residence resource was no longer available.
Hallmark, therefore, developed a role description and organisational case for supporting their own internal Researcher in Residence. In particular, as independence is important for good quality research, they had to consider how to enable an internally-supported role to maintain the necessary autonomy and decided to link with an academic partner – the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester.
So, why did I want to be the Hallmark Researcher in Residence?
I was one of the researchers that was involved in CHARM. My passion has always been about enabling care homes to provide the best possible care for people living with dementia and their families and providing the best possible support for their team members.
This passion started when I worked as a Carer in care homes at the start of my career and never really left me, and for the last ten years, I have been leading research and education for care homes at the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester.
The CHARM project was so exciting because it meant that research was focused on what care homes themselves decided was important, not what we as researchers thought might be important! The CHARM approach also meant that research could adapt to the daily challenges that happen in busy care homes, which made it much more successful than many other approaches. I could work closely with team members, residents and families to show them that research does not have to be complicated and that they all have the ability to contribute.
The opportunity to continue this work across a whole organisation was therefore not one I could ignore! I’m really excited to see what the organisation can achieve with my help and I hope we’ll be able to show other organisations that investing in this type of role is worthwhile.
To find out more about Isabelle’s experience click here.
Click here to find your nearest Hallmark care home.