Casual conversations - it's all knowledge translation
When graduate students hear the term knowledge translation, or “KT”, it may send shivers up their spines. Historically, it has meant publishing in journals with high impact factors and presenting at international scientific conferences and to other formal groups for peer review. While these activities are important to ensure proper implementation of research, they are not the only way to share research plans and findings in a meaningful way. In recent months, I had a profound realization that often the most informal of discussions can have the biggest impact.
Recently, during the third wave of the pandemic, I found myself returning to my bedside practice in our tertiary care center’s ICU. Oh how I missed this team and the work that they do. They really are an amazing group of humans. During the most stressful time in the unit’s history we found time to update one another on our latest family adventures, as well as personal challenges and successes. When former students (who are now colleagues) and other colleagues began asking me what I was up to academically, I excitedly talked about the three studies that make up my doctoral work. Still struggling with imposter syndrome on a daily basis, I wasn’t sure how this would be received but I was so pleased to see that all those I spoke to shared my excitement and talked of the value that my work will have in our practice. They began sharing stories of their own experiences related to providing pain management to patients on opioid agonist therapy or those with opioid use disorder who are not being treated. The insight into their experiences validated the reasons for my research and gave me the motivation I needed to complete my formal proposal for defense and my application to the ethics board. Talk about impact!
These casual chats led me to resources I hadn’t considered, I have begun to network in areas I hadn’t been introduced to, and I have learned that colleagues from multiple disciplines will be championing my study. I’ve been asked to present my work to my colleagues for education days and prepare webinars for various professional groups at each stage of my project. I’ve had other prospective graduate students bring their own ideas and potential research questions to me to ask if they would be reasonable to explore with a potential supervisor. Such impact! Many of the conversations ended with “please don’t tell me anymore right now. I’d be so grateful if you’d be willing to be a participant in my research and share your experience in an interview”. And so, while I waited for REB approval, recruitment had begun in an informal way. Instead of being hesitant to ask others to participate in my research for fear of burdening them during an already tumultuous time, I’m now excited to share this work with them to inform change for a vulnerable population. Incredible impact!
Moving forward, I’m going to cringe less when I hear about KT. I now think of translating knowledge in both formal and informal ways. I wonder how we might measure the impact factor of these discussions. Perhaps they aren’t measurable? Perhaps it’s a research question all its own? If you decide to study this, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll be working with the amazing energy that informal KT has generated.
Member of team IMPPACT
Studying the challenges of post-operative pain management in patients on opioid agonist therapy.