When Emma Osland embarked on a career as a Dietitian, she never imagined she would become a specialist in the field of surgical nutrition and complete a Master of Philosophy in meta-analysis.
But the Advanced Practitioner in Dietetics and Nutrition at Ipswich Hospital, believes understanding research is a key skill for all clinicians.
“If I had a dream role it would be 50 percent research and 50 percent clinical because the clinical feeds into research and research into the clinical.
“I also think I would lose interest in the clinical if I didn’t do the research and vice-versa. Research improves my clinical judgement and clinical skills.”
Specifically Emma is interested in the fields of surgical and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nutrition. Her thesis was a meta-analysis comparing early and traditional postoperative feeding practices following gastrointestinal surgery.
“In a meta-analysis you take small, comparable randomised controlled studies to get an overall picture of what they say - it’s a quantitative study using statistics to combine the results of several studies that address a set of related research hypotheses.”
Emma Osland’s research found that it is better to feed patients food from day one following gastrointestinal surgery, compared to the traditional approach of starving people until their bowls moved.
“I was actually exploring the subject as a workplace project with one of the surgeons here on a smaller scale for more than a year when he suggested I complete a Master on the topic.
“I am I glad I did because it taught me so much more than I would have learnt on my own and I also have a far greater understanding of meta-analysis.”
Emma Osland completed her studies under the supervision of Assoc Prof Shahjahan Khan, a statistics lecturer in the Faculty of Sciences.
“He was excellent – I can’t speak highly enough on the man. He was always accommodating and approachable by email and phone and scheduled all my appointments around my RDO’s (rostered days off work).
“And the USQ distance education people were amazing – it’s like a well-oiled machine.”
Emma was also a recipient of a Federal Government Research Training Scheme that assisted with her tuition fees for a specific number of units.
Despite this support, Emma says it was a hard slog.
“Full-time work and full-time study is ridiculous, unless you have a workplace that is very, very accommodating – it nearly killed me.
“My advice to prospective research students is not to over-commit. Try and achieve a good work/life balance and make sure you have room for a life.
“And it is worth the pain at the end – once you are through.”