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Karen Caulfield

Practice Research Fellow


I am a clinical specialist cardiothoracic paediatric physio and have worked on the children’s heart unit at the Freeman hospital since 2010. I am particularly interested in activity promotion for all children and families within our unit and throughout their life course.

Some of our patients are with us for long periods of time (weeks to many months) during the most formative months of their lives. All areas of child development are key to overall development of children. As a physio I feel privileged to be part of the journey each child and their family go on, with the key focus being to optimise their function as much as possible at each stage.

I completed a MSc in 2015 and undertook a project looking at developing services for children supported by an external heart device.

In 2021 I undertook a 10 month NIHR internship starting my research journey by dipping my toe into the academic world and starting to gain an understanding of projects, methods etc.

I undertook a project looking at staff knowledge and thoughts and behaviours towards activity on the heart unit. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and the learning opportunities and different ways to look at things and it was this that lead me to apply for the Fellowship in 2022.

Summary of research project 

The ultimate goal of my project is to ensure that activity is normalised as part of care for all patients on the children’s heart unit. Each child will have a daily activity goal during their stay and families should feel empowered to ask about and promote activity for their child throughout their journey.

I plan to investigate parental and patient thoughts and behaviours about activity on the unit and determine, with the service users, what and how we can increase activity on the unit.

Having a child admitted to hospital at any stage is highly stressful. Some of our families know from their 20 week scan that their child will need immediate admission to our unit or admission within a few weeks or months of life. All children will have lifelong follow up.

There may be key times tha families feel it would be beneficial to have information about activity and its importance so that activity is considered a normal part of care alongside medical and mechanical interventions.

`Areas of interest 

  • Activity and development in children
  • Engaging and empowering families and patients
  • Evidence into practice

Get in touch

Email:  [email protected]