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Research Staff Profile - Dr Harbinder Sandhu

h_sandhu_1.jpg  Harbinder Sandhu
Assistant Professor, Institute of Clinical Education, Warwick Medical School.
Tel: 02476 574939

Current research
Preparing reach proposals exploring communication between clinician and patients in chronic pain consultations with an aim to improve behaviour change in patients and improve patient outcomes

Life before Warwick
Before starting at Warwick I had just completed my MSc in Health psychology at Coventry University. It was during this time and completing my dissertation that I started to develop an interest in communication (doctor-patient interaction) research. My dissertation explored the impact of clinician gender effects in breaking bad news consultations. This involved analysing videotaped consultations using a valid and reliable coding tool which needed a lot of self- training in order to code accurately.
Having completed my MSc I then applied for a research post within Warwick Medical School funded by Warwick & Coventry Primary Care Research (WC-PCR) and in particular the National co-ordinating Centre for Research Capacity Development (NCCRCD), which allowed me to continue to work within the area of communication in healthcare and develop as a researcher.

Best things about working at Warwick
The best things about working at Warwick is the variety and flexibility I have within my role. The variety includes, research, teaching, presenting at conferences, networking, developing and delivering training, management of projects and the teaching module and attending various seminars across the University. I also work with supportive and friendly colleagues which makes the job much more enjoyable!
I believe that Warwick has some good funding opportunities for early career researchers which can support networking and training as well as national and international collaborations. For example I have been lucky in securing funding from various sources such as The Roberts Fund for Researchers (lead applicant), The Institute of Advanced Study – Short term Visiting Fellowship and The North American Funds Committee (Co-applicant). Apart from the practical aspects of working at Warwick there is of course the beautiful campus too!.

Worst thing about working for Warwick or If you could change one thing at Warwick, what would it be?
I think I would like to see more activities which encourage cross departmental collaborations throughout the university. This could be “showcasing days” where staff can learn about research and teaching activities across the University which may encourage further networking or specific training and activity days with clear outcomes and teambuilding.

What people are surprised to learn about me…
People are surprised to learn that I am the UK trainer and manager of the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS) which is a research tool used to analyse communication research. I work closely with colleagues at Johns Hopkins University Baltimore and over the years have developed a good working relationship with them.
I am also a part of an international early career research network where one person from 8 different countries was selected to build a network which would lead to support, collaborations and future research within communication skills research.

What would you dream job be?
As a registered and practicing Health Psychologist in the area of chronic pain management my dream job would be to continue to combine a clinical and academic mix where the research and teaching I do clearly influence clinical practice and vice versa. I would also like to have achieved success in research funding by leading, collaborating and securing large research bids which will allow me to develop an expertise in healthcare communication (clinician-patient communication skills) research and publish articles in high impact journals!

Research interest
My research interests are in healthcare communication, specifically looking at improving doctor-patient interactions by teaching communication skills to clinicians and empowering patients with an aim to improve patient outcomes. I also have an interest in applying health psychology theory and techniques in the management of chronic pain and improving patient motivation and self efficacy.
Linked to this I also have an interest in the application of sport psychology theory and techniques in behaviour change across a range of health conditions including pain management. Exercise and physical activity is a crucial component of pain management. I am currently completing a certificate in Sport Psychology which has allowed me to continue to build on my psychological knowledge and develop another area of interest and expertise alongside Health Psychology.

What have been useful training/development to date
I have attended various courses and training events within the University which have been useful including:
- Principles of Good Clinical Practice Training Research Governance and Ethics
- Exploring Course Design
- Assessment Design and Practice
- Research Degree Supervision (part of the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic and Professional Practice)
- MBChB Assessor Training and Selection Centre
- Reviewing UCAS forms
- Role of the Personal Tutor

Other roles (eg. peer review journals)
Other roles include: PhD supervision. I am currently a co-supervisor for a PhD student who is due to finish in 2013. I am also a committee member for the Midlands Health Psychology Network. This network is for academics, trainees and those interested in Health Psychology with up to date information, Continued Professional Development and training, an annual conference and promoting networking for research and collaboration..

Next bid/grant
Research for Patient Benefit: Patient barriers and challenges to expressing pain related issues during a pain consultation.

Latest academic writing publication (journal/ book etc)
Vail L, Sandhu H, Fisher J, Cooke H, Dale J, Barnett M. (2011) Hospital Consultants Breaking Bad News with Simulated Patients: an analysis of communication using the Roter Interaction Analysis System. Patient Education and Counselling, 83, 185-194.
Book Chapter: Sandhu H and Patel S (Submitted, 2011). Health Psychology in Medical Schools. In Health Psychology in Practice (Eds), Mark Forshaw and David Sheffield.

Major achievement to date
Achieving my Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology!

Three top tips / learning
• Keep up to date with training/courses that the University run for staff, if there is something you think will be useful make the time or negotiate the time with your line manager so you can attend.
• Always be willing to ask for help and guidance if you need it.
• Be creative: think outside the box!.