Page content

Helping People Cope With Stroke

18 December 2013

Dr Suzanne McKenna graduates from the University of Ulster today with a PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences from the School of Health Sciences.

Since 2009, Suzanne, a qualified physiotherapist, has focused her PhD research on stroke patients, examining ways in which they can take control of their care and improve rehabilitation.

Dr McKenna says: “After completing my Masters in Health Promotion and Population Health at the University of Ulster, I had a keen interest in continuing to pursue a research career focused on healthcare.

“Around 4000 people suffer a stroke each year in Northern Ireland and over 32,000 people are living with stroke and its impact. I felt it would be appropriate to focus my studies on evaluating Bridges, an established UK-wide stroke self management programme. This combined my interest in factors that influence health with the rehabilitation focus of my professional background in physiotherapy.

“People who have had a stroke often report feeling abandoned once their formal rehabilitation comes to an end. By evaluating the role of a programme delivered by health professionals in the rehabilitation setting, my PhD sought to further enable and empower stroke patients so that they can continue to make progress. It is important for stroke patients to regain confidence that they may feel was lost when the stroke occurred.

“My studies at the University of Ulster have really allowed me to explore my interest in healthcare and I hope in some way that this will be of benefit to patients and their families.”

As for the future, that is very strongly grounded in healthcare research. Dr McKenna is now a research associate within the University’s Institute of Nursing and Health Research where she is exploring ways to support men with prostate cancer.

Notes to editors:

Bridges stroke self-management is about supporting people who’ve had a stroke to take control. It supportsstroke survivors to use strategies that help self-management such as reflecting on their achievements, making a plan to work towards goals they’ve set themselves, and recording their progress.

The idea for Bridges was conceived in 2005 by Dr Fiona Jones, who is a physiotherapist and stroke researcher.In 2010 Bridges was launched as a centre based within theFaculty of Health and Social Care Sciences at Kingston University and St Georges, University of London.