Meet a Calvary Researcher

Dr Sue Rainsford

Calvary Public Hospital Bruce

Dr Sue Rainsford is a palliative medicine staff specialist at Clare Holland House, and research fellow and senior clinical lecturer at the Australian National University. Prior to gaining her fellowship of the Australasian Chapter of Palliative Medicine she worked in rural general practice and continues to provide specialist palliative medicine in her private practice in the Snowy Monaro region of NSW.

Since entering research late in her career, Sue has completed her PhD (2018, ANU) and developed nationally and internationally recognised expertise in research around the concept of the ‘safe death’ in rural settings. She is currently the lead investigator/evaluator on a project funded through a Commonwealth/Primary Health Network grant implementing palliative care needs rounds and multidisciplinary educational case conferences into residential aged care within the Snowy Monaro Region.

Sue is widely published in peer reviewed journals and was an invited to author a chapter on rural palliative care in the Textbook of Palliative Care (2018). She has presented her research at local, national and international conferences. She has been invited to represent the ‘rural voice’ on a number of local and national committees.

Dr Angela Rao (PhD)

Calvary Health Care Kogarah

Angela Rao is an early career researcher and clinical nurse specialist in palliative care and cancer clinical trials. She is the Clinical Trials Coordinator at Kogarah. Angela has recently been awarded her PhD from the University of Technology Sydney in 2020, which aimed to generate contextual knowledge of the capacity for meditation to be integrated into cardiovascular secondary prevention (The MENTOR Project). As a part of her doctoral project, Angela led a phase II RCT evaluating the feasibility of meditation as a strategy to reduce depression and anxiety in people with cardiovascular disease. Prior to this, she was the trial coordinator for an Australian Research Council Category 1 Funded phase III RCT Heart Awareness for Women, which evaluated a gender specific approach to address the psychosocial needs of women.

Angela is developing a track record in mind body therapies and psychological health with 7 publications, 6 of which are first author, and 11 national and international conference presentations to date. She has training in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and over 14 years’ experience in personal and guided group meditation. Angela also has advanced conflict resolution experience with 8 years as a co-facilitator for the Alternatives to Violence Project. She demonstrates a passion for developing an evidence base in psychological health and mind body therapies and supporting their uptake into routine clinical care.

Dr Jodie Ellis (PhD)

Calvary Health Care Kogarah

Jodie Ellis is the Head of Department for Dietetics, Speech Pathology and Psychology at Calvary Health Care Kogarah, she obtained her PhD in Palliative Nutrition from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney in 2018. Her professional training includes – Nutrition and Dietetics, psychology, business management and fitness. Clinically, Jodie has worked as an accredited practicing dietitian for over 20 years with the areas covered including – palliative care, aged care, rehabilitation and developmental disability.

Jodie has undertaken research in numerous clinical areas and is passionate about uncovering the evidence in palliative care nutrition. Her research includes both qualitative and quantitative studies with her current study investigating nutrition impact symptoms and their effect on oral intake at the end of life. Jodie has also investigated the lived experience of patients, carers and health professionals around food and nutrition at the end of life along with the meaning of food at this time.

Nikki Johnston

Calvary Public Hospital Bruce

Nikki Johnston is a palliative care nurse practitioner who works at Clare Holland House, Calvary Public Hospital Bruce in Canberra. Her current role involves integrating specialist palliative care practice into residential aged care.

Although her role is predominantly clinical, Nikki works with a research team who have been recognised internationally for their research approach. Their method has led to a decreased length in the duration of resident hospitalisations and an increased instance of older people living in nursing homes dying in their preferred place. Their research project also won a Category Award and was the overall winner of the Quality in Health Care Awards ACT.

The approach was also found to assist staff in normalizing death and dying, while providing essential anticipatory prescribing and better decision-making leading to planned care for residents.  The team is currently undertaking a randomized control trial using ‘stepped wedge’ methodology. Nikki is also a guest lecturer at the University of Canberra and the Australian Catholic University, She is also a nurse mentor.

Dr Fiona Runacres

Calvary Health Care Bethlehem

Dr. Fiona Runacres has worked at Calvary Health Care Bethlehem as a palliative care specialist since 2014. Whilst undertaking her palliative care training at Bethlehem, she became interested in the role of restorative care, and the interface between palliative care and rehabilitation. A retrospective audit published in 2015 examined outcomes for patients admitted to Bethlehem for restorative care and resulted in the creation of the Maintenance and Independence Unit at Calvary Health Care Bethlehem.

Fiona subsequently undertook a research fellowship and lead a qualitative study examining palliative care physicians’ perspectives of the role of rehabilitation in palliative care. These findings have been presented at various national and international palliative care conferences.

Fiona is currently collaborating with researchers and clinicians from Calvary Health Care Bethlehem, Monash Health and Deakin University to investigate the role of specialist palliative care in subacute rehabilitation and geriatric care settings. Future research plans to examine models of Geriatricians involvement in palliative care, and how generalist and specialist provision of palliative care in this setting can be optimised.