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Award-Winning Researchers Want Seniors With Hip Fractures To Receive Optimal Treatment Province-Wide

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In one of the fastest aging provinces in Canada, a group of health researchers and professionals have been named February NBHRF Researchers of the Month for their work to help better treat one of the most common issues seniors face: hip fractures.

“Hip fractures in older adults is a leading cause of injury for many seniors. It often leads to long stays in hospital and potential decline in function after the hip fracture,” says Dr. Pamela Jarrett, a geriatrician at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Saint John and one of the researchers involved in the project.  

Dr. Pamela Jarrett. Image: submitted.

“We wanted to look comprehensively at the hip fractures across the province, to see how many there are, how they occur and what the care paths are while they are in hospital.  We also wanted to better understand the recovery time and how many patients are able to return home and back to their previous level of function.”

“We had a sense that there was maybe some variability across the province in terms of how care is delivered to those with these fractures and we’re trying to look at that to get a better understanding,” says Jarrett. “So we can work towards a more uniform approach for our seniors so we can ensure that best practices are in place across the province”.

Jarrett and her fellow team members are being honoured by the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation as this month’s Research Rising Stars.

The team is made up of professionals from different jurisdictions and programs across New Brunswick.

From Horizon Health:

  • Dr. Pamela Jarrett, Geriatrician, St. Joseph’s Hospital
  • Dr. James Wagg, Orthopedic Surgeon, Saint John Regional Hospital
  • Dr. Linda Yetman, Research Coordinator for Geriatric Medicine Research, St. Joseph’s Hospital
  • Dr. Bryn Robinson, Research Engagement Manager, Research Services, Saint John Regional Hospital

From Reseau de Sante Vitalite:

  • Dr. Neil Branch, Orthopedic Surgeon and Medical Director

From the New Brunswick Trauma Program:

  • Dr. Tushar Pishe, Interim Medical Director
  • Ian Watson, Administrative Director
  • Susan Benjamin, Research Nurse

From the University of New Brunswick:

  • Dr. Chris McGibbon, Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology and Institute of Biomedical Engineering
  • Dr. Dan Crouse, Research Associate, Dept. Sociology and  NB Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT)

“When most people think of research, they think of a scientist or two working alone in a lab. This is the case sometimes, but when it comes to studying something like hip fractures, a multidisciplinary approach is a must”, says Dr. Bryn Robinson, research engagement manager of research services at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

“Trauma covers a lot of different disciplines and a lot of different areas across a lifespan,” says Robinson. “When you’re looking at something that’s seemingly simple like hip fractures … you start realizing there’s more to it. We all benefit from more hands in caring for these patients. “

Dr. Bryn Robinson. Image: submitted.

“We needed content experts, orthopedic surgeons from both health authorities, and a geriatrician on the team to help inform that. Then, of course, we have the preventable aspect of falls in seniors and we can examine that information to try and reduce that risk going forward”

Much of the research is data-driven, with help from the NB Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT) at UNB. The researchers are looking at different variables such as patient age, sex, and pre-existing ailments like dementia and diabetes. From there they can examine how all those factors impact a patient’s length of hospital stay and how they do after they get surgery.

“This project does use data from a couple of different sources that wouldn’t typically be connectable. It’s a data-driven project,” says Ian Watson, administrative director of the NB Trauma program. “This is quantitative research which is only possible by virtue of the partnership that exists to link hospital-based data with Vital Statistics data.”

The research team is currently analyzing the data. Once that’s completed, they will move to the project’s second phase by using their findings to create a set of best practices that will help guide how hip fractures are treated across the province.

Ian Watson. Image: submitted.

“Our hope is that we will all have a clearer picture of the number of people, the course of the trajectory of care and the outcomes for seniors who have hip fractures in the province. [We also hope] to get a better understanding of the variability of these outcomes across the province,” says Jarrett. “So in the next phase, we can try to work towards developing best practices to ensure that all New Brunswickers get the same care [regardless] of where somebody lives.”

In a system with so many parts, that’s an ambitious goal, but it’s attainable thanks to the ongoing teamwork with all researchers and healthcare professional involved.

“Every member of the team recognizes that there’s value in the contribution that we each make to the team,” says Watson. “We saw that from the outset and built the team in a collaborative fashion. We’re all bringing something a little different to the table, but by working together, we’re sure that we can better understand  – and ultimately optimize – this important piece of healthcare in New Brunswick.”

This story is part of a series sponsored by the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation.

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