February 13, 2020

Small Research Grants: Asking big questions

The Small Research Grant (SRG) recipients of Round 23 are asking big questions.

Justin Wong, Orthopaedic Surgeon, wants to know if, “there’s a better way to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)?”

Shannon Smith, Clinical Nurse Specialist ICU, would like to know if, ‘alarm fatigue’ is affecting patient care.

Jenny Huynh, General Surgery Fellow, is asking, “Can a ‘one-stop’ Benign Breast Clinic further improve outcomes for women in the north?”

“How much oxygen is good for you?” asks Maureen Goodwin, Clinical Nurse Consultant Respiratory Medicine.

The SRG Recipients are hoping to find the answers to these and other research questions, which can develop and strengthen our research culture  and potentially benefit Northern Health’s community. Read about the big questions they are posing and join us in congratulating them:


Name: Dr David Liu, Dr Betty Lai and Dr Krinal Mori
Role: Senior General Surgery Registrar, Head of Acute General Surgery Unit and General Surgeon
Big Question: Can we use more thromboprophylaxis to reduce the risk of Venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

Venous thromboembolism (VTE), which refers to the development of blood clots within the deep veins of the body and arteries of the lungs, is a major hospital-acquired complication. The use of calf compression devices which promote blood flow, and pharmacological agents which inhibit blood from clotting, together termed thromboprophylaxis, have proven efficacy in reducing VTE risk.

This grant will fund the establishment and evaluation of a dedicated interdisciplinary thromboprophylaxis review team, embedded within the Acute General Surgery Unit (AGSU).


Name: Mr Justin Wong
Role: Orthopaedic Surgeon
Big Question: Is there a better way to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)?

The (ACL) is a commonly injured structure in competitive athletes. In order to overcome the instability and return to sport, the ACL is commonly reconstructed using a hamstrings tendon graft.

Orthopaedic surgeons do not have a standard instrument to pull the graft through the knee. Instead, improvised instruments are utilised.

The aim of this project is to measure the force required to shuttle an ACL graft through the knee using standard instruments and compare that to the force measured when using a specially made ACL graft shuttling device.


Name: Ms Shannon Smith
Role: Clinical Nurse Specialist ICU
Big Question: Is ‘alarm fatigue’ affecting patient care?

High ‘false’ alarm rates in Intensive Care have been hypothesised to increase the likelihood of an alarm that is related to a severe deterioration (‘true’ alarms) being missed. The aim of this project is to investigate the number of alarms per day that staff and patients are exposed to. This project will investigate the impact that alarms have in an Australian Intensive Care Unit and develop strategies to minimise the rate of ‘false’ alarms.


Name Ms Caitlin Farmer
Role: Advanced Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist (ED)
Big Question: Do patient beliefs, influence presentations to Emergency Department (ED)?

Low back pain is extremely common, accounting for over three per cent of all emergency visits.

In the absence of signs of serious or specific disease (present in less than two per cent of patients), back pain is not an emergency situation, and is best manage by primary care practitioners in the community such as General Practitioners (GPs) and physiotherapists.

This study will identify whether low health literacy and back pain beliefs impact on whether an individual presents to the Emergency Department. This will in turn allow for the development of interventions tailored to improving the understanding of back pain and reducing unnecessary use of emergency departments.


Name: Ms Maureen Goodwin
Role: Clinical Nurse Consultant Respiratory Medicine
Big Question: How much oxygen is good for you?

Because oxygen is so easy to administer it is commonly used inappropriately. Overuse or underuse of oxygen could potentially cause harm or delay hospital discharge. There is very little information from Australian hospitals on how oxygen is used here. This study will examine oxygen use at Northern Health and determine how often it is consistent with local and international guidelines. The results will help to improve the use of oxygen therapy which will in turn improve outcomes for patients.


Name: Dr Jenny Huynh
Role: General Surgery Unit 2 Fellow
Big Question: Can a ‘one-stop’ Benign Breast Disease Clinic further improve outcomes for women in the north?

The majority of new referrals to Northern Breast Clinic are for benign breast disease (BBD), with numbers exponentially increasing yearly. Access to clinic is compromised with risk of delayed diagnosis for new breast cancers.

Current practice involves referral to breast surgeons with multiple imaging investigations and repeat review appointments. The proposed project will analysis current practice and patient satisfaction of services and implement a BBD ‘one-stop’ clinic for low risk patients, followed by an analysis of implementation and patient satisfaction.


The objective of the Small Research Grants is to support work that benefits Northern Health’s community and support projects that will lead to applications for external grants or funding. The grants will also develop and strengthen the research culture at Northern Health, support capacity building and staff development, support pilot projects or projects where traditional funding sources are difficult to attract and increase research productivity. Follow the journey of the Small Research Grant recipients Round 23 at https://bit.ly/31PyDOF

The Small Research Grants are powered by Northern Health Foundation, which also funds PhD research scholarships. These grants and scholarships  develop and strengthen research undertaken at Northern Health and benefit patients within the northern community.