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Professor Sonja McIlfatrick

It was more than twenty years ago, when I was working as a district nurse, that I really started to question the important contribution of palliative care for patients being cared for at home. I could clearly see different examples of both good and not so good quality care and this led me to question, what were the factors that contributed to this? I could see that timely, appropriate access to symptom management, a multidisciplinary team, comprised of both generalist and specialists, could really make a difference to the quality of life and death for people and their families. Yet the reality was that this did not always happen in practice. This curiosity or, as I would now teach student nurses, the importance of asking critical questions of our practice, became the focus for my Masters in Nursing degree, looking at the role of the district nurse in palliative care, and my first research paper published in 1999. This passion, to seek to enhance the quality of life and death for patients and their families, remains central to my interest and work in palliative care today. 

I am a Professor of Nursing and Palliative Care and Head of School of Nursing at Ulster University in Northern Ireland. My work is comprised of four key elements; researcher; teacher, practitioner and leader. As a teacher and researcher, I am passionate about the importance of asking research questions, generating evidence and then implementing and using this robust evidence to develop practice and improve care. I have worked nationally both across the UK and Ireland. I currently lead a programme of research focusing on palliative care in chronic illness, management of clinical symptoms; decision-making at end of life; and a public health approach to palliative care.

What I would hope to contribute to EAPC if elected

If elected to the EAPC Board, I would hope to bring my experiences with strategic developments and international research and networking, which I have gained throughout my career and, most recently, from my time as the Head of Research for the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (2011-2014). During this time, I led the establishment of the All Ireland Palliative Care Research Network (PCRN). This involved bringing researchers from across the island of Ireland and wider international collaborators together to undertake research informed by and informing practice, policy and education. One element of this included the establishment of priorities for palliative care research across the island of Ireland (view here). If elected, I would hope that such experiences would contribute towards developing and promoting palliative care in Europe.

Outside of work, I am kept busy as a wife and mum to two grown-up boys, my dog Archie, and trying to keep active by running (albeit slowly!).