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Research staff profile: introducing…Nan Greenwood

Tell us about yourself

Nan GreenwoodI am an associate professor in the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education. A social scientist by training, my early career was in market and opinion research, followed by a spell in adult education. I moved into academic research 20 years ago starting as a Research Assistant in the then St George's Hospital Medical School (SGHMS). During the last two decades I have worked for both the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education and SGHMS – what is now St George's, University of London. My research studies have been wide ranging but have largely focused on experiences of health and social care services and most recently on investigating the impact of supporting others with long-term health conditions as unpaid carers. I have particular research interests in marginalised groups – especially the experiences of older people and people from black and minority ethnic groups – and also in the provision of peer support for carers.

I started my career using primarily quantitative methods but would now describe myself as a mixed methods researcher. Systematic literature reviews make up a large component of my research (I have published a dozen such reviews to date). I also have a strong interest in research methods – for example, investigating the impact of participant demographics on focus group findings.

Supporting others within the Faculty to develop their research skills is a key part of my role. Recently I have worked with three groups of staff to undertake systematic literature reviews for peer-reviewed publications. I am also co-chair of the Faculty Research Ethics Committee. Externally, I sit on the Department of Health Policy Research Programme's Commissioning Panel.

What is your current research focused on?

My current focuses on unpaid, usually family carers. This research has included primary data collection and systematic literature reviews. I have recently completed a large NIHR-SSCR funded qualitative study investigating the experiences of carers from black and minority ethnic groups with social care services. With a former PhD student, Dr Ray Smith, I am also currently investigating the experiences of family carers of people with dementia attending voluntary sector run 'dementia cafés'  and undertaking two literature reviews – one to synthesise the experiences of people with young onset dementia and another to synthesise the evidence relating to older carers aged over 75 years.

What are you passionate about?

Unpaid or informal carers are an often overlooked group. Despite the fact that they play an essential role in supporting people with long-term conditions and save the economy an estimated £19 billion annually (Carers' UK, 2015), they frequently suffer from social isolation and receive very little support. There is now a considerable body of evidence that highlights their experiences but this is very often focussed on carers' negative experiences. Research, especially quantitative research, is dominated by the concept of 'carer burden' – a term often unpopular with carers. There is insufficient research highlighting the rewards for carers and how these positive experiences can be enhanced for the benefit of the carers and those they support.

How does your research affect people's everyday lives?

My research is very much centred on improving the lives of carers and the people they support. The findings often make explicit recommendations for service improvement and some of my research has been incorporated into teaching medical students to help them understand the experiences of family carers. Many of my past research projects have also been with the voluntary sector – often with an aim of evaluating and improving the services they offer to carers.

What is the best thing about researching at Kingston University?

Working in the joint faculty with St George's, University of London (SGUL) enhances our resources, encourages interdisciplinary working and collaboration with the Trust. In particular, I have undertaken research on the stroke unit at St George's Hospital which has resulted a considerable body of research and numerous peer reviewed publications.

Find out more about Dr Nan Greenwood on her staff profile page.

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