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One of the things Assistant Nurse Clinician Darshini Devi D/O Rajasegeran loves about her job is how it allows her to care for patients and conduct research to improve patient care.
As a nurse specialising in critical care at Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH) Burns Unit, the 33-year-old treats patients with varying degrees of burn injuries, ranging from burns sustained from cooking to industrial accidents where patients may suffer from large surface area wounds.
She is also responsible for allocating patients to beds and managing the unit’s resources, in addition to ensuring that every aspect of patient care is conducted properly.
"The Burns Unit is very specialised in critical care. You see injuries that you won't encounter in any other areas of critical care, such as inhalation injuries and larger percentages of burnt body surfaces," she said.
The unit is also self-contained, with a Burns Intensive Care Unit, two operating theatres and a skin bank, so patients stay there from admission until they are discharged.
Innovation that benefits patientsFor two days every week, Darshini works with the Nursing Research Unit, where she collaborates with a multidisciplinary team on research projects that aim to enhance patient care.
"It is usually when you are working on the ground that you notice the things that can be improved," she said. "We have team meetings to discuss and find out the pain points that we come across in the course of our work."
During one such meeting, the Nursing Research Unit observed that older adults whonare hospitalised tend to stay longer. Even when they have recovered, these patients may experience mobility issues, including unsteady gait or inability to resume physical activities.
To help these individuals, the team researched and developed a bedside activity device that encourages patients to move independently without the aid of healthcare professionals.
The resulting prototype is a portable frame equipped with a monitor and stepper, which can be locked onto the hospital's existing geriatric chairs. These large chairs are padded and designed to help the elderly with limited mobility Once the device is in place, patients can play two interactive video games using the monitor — Stepping and Sit-to-Stand — to strengthen their lower body.
Feedback on the device has been positive so far, with patients reporting improved physical function after using it. Darshini is working on the design and planning process to improve the prototype, and hopes to eventually expand its use to all patients at SGH.
Foundation of best practicesDarshini first became intrigued by research when it was introduced as part of her nursing course. Subsequently, while working in the Burns Unit, Darshini had the opportunity to conduct her first clinical research study in 2018 as the Principal Investigator. The study analysed the effectiveness of two types of dressings in absorbing woundhealing fluids and reducing the pain of dressing removal for skin transplant patients.
Nursing research is an important way to improve nursing practices, said Darshini.
"In healthcare, the best practices are always informed by research evidence. So, the main purpose of nursing research is to improve the point of care and the process of delivering that care. To me, that is very appealing," she explained.
Her dedication to research was recognised when SGH awarded her a scholarship to attain a two-year postgraduate certificate in health services innovation in 2021. The course teaches her how to translate data into technological interventions, which will help her directly in her research work.
For individuals keen on pursuing nursing research, Darshini encourages them to seek out research clinics and immersion programmes offered by SingHealth to nurture these skills.
To read more stories of how SingHealth nurses are pushing new frontiers to improve the care of our patients, download the latest issue of the Singapore Health Special Nursing Supplement 2022.