• Room 02.015 - Sociology and Social Work

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications in the fields of:
Social work,
Decision making/Advance Care Planning,
Palliative and end of life care,
Psychological impact of living with life-limiting illness,
Dementia, Cancer and Parkinson's Disease,
Bereavement (experiences, needs assessment, interventions and policy),
Psychological interventions for bereavement,
Student social work experiences of placement (inc. failing placement),
Social work supervision and reflective practice,
Stress, resilience and burnout in social workers/student social workers

1997 …2024

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research Interests

As Director of Practice Learning, I conducted a number of research studies with students in relation to their experiences of supervision, readiness to practice, professional identity and placement experiences. One study explored readiness to practice and developing professional identity, which was originally conducted in Northern Ireland, and subsequently replicated in the Republic of Ireland and Finland.  Another study examined the reasons why students failed placement, and subsequently offered students the opportunity to share their experiences of failing placement. This work has been published in peer reviewed journals and disseminated through regional workshops coordinated by the NI Degree in Social Work Partnership.Another all-Ireland study examined motivation for social work students to professionally train, explored empathy, ACEs, and other sociodemographic characteristics.

When in the role of Academic Selector for the BSW degree, I established and chaired a research steering group to develop, test and evaluate a social work psychometric to determine suitability for professional training based on values based recruitment. This work was funded by the Department of Health and Queen's University. I am currently collaborating with colleagues in Nursing and Midwifery regarding the barriers for young adult carers in Higher Education.

Other research interests involve living with life-limiting illnesses (i.e. capturing changes in quality of life, anxiety, depression), the role and needs of informal and formal carers, how mindfulness can help student social workers to reduce anxiety, depression, stress, and advance care planning or end-of-life care decision-making.

Another area of research interest is bereavement. This is based on the delivery of bereavement services in community and hospice teams, the development of national and international bereavement standards, a number of bereavement related research studies and a Cochrane review. I am currently involved in a national bereavement study exploring the impact of COVID-19 on bereavement outcomes and a study exploring the use of music therapy with patients and carers pre-bereavement.



I am currently responsible for convening an undergraduate module entitled 'Social Work in Adult Services' for final year Bachelor of Social Work Students. This is delivered to approximately 110 students prior to their final social work practice learning opportunity/placement. The module covers different programmes of care (e.g. adults with physical health condition or disability, learning disability, dementia, older people, sensory disability, mental health, forensic social work and palliative care). Teaching encourages students to explore the challenges for social workers within the context of health inequalities, poverty, adult safeguarding, stress, resource constraints, ethical issues, burnout and resilience. 

I developed a new Specialist Practice Dissertation module for health and social care professionals studying at Master's degree level. This module commenced in September 2019 and is available to students registered on a range of programmes at Queen's (e.g. CBT, Systemic Psychotherapy, Dual Diagnosis, Child Care, Mental Health, Strategy and Leadership) and from other academic institutions.

In 2022 I developed a new Post-Graduate Diploma in Palliative Care for Social Workers. The course content was developed in collaboration with palliative care social work leads across the island of Ireland, and in consultation with international social work academics, researchers and practitioners. The course has been approved by relevant committees within Queen's University and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council/Professionals in Practice, which allows it to start in Sept 2023. This course, which will be delivered online, will offer social workers globally the opportunity to obtain academic credits at Post-Graduate Certificate or Diploma level.


Shortly after joining Queen's University Belfast in 2010, I took responsibility for coordinating final year BSW student placements. This involved representing QUB at various regional committees surrounding the placement allocations process (e.g. Practice Learning and Degree Delivery, Collaborative Partnership at Queen's, and the Practice Learning Coordinator's meetings) and working in close collaboration with the NI Degree in Social Work Partnership and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council.  In 2014, I was appointed as Director of Practice Learning, meaning I took responsibility for coordinating all first and final year social work placements. This entailed additional responsibilities, such as providing annual reports/updates at the Annual Review of Practice Learning, working in close collaboration with the Practice Learning Coordinators across the voluntary and statutory sectors, contributing to annual standardisation workshops for practice teachers, Chairing the Programme Assessment Panel and establishing new internal systems for students experiencing difficulties with progression. 

In 2018-2021 I was the Academic Selector and Recruitment Officer for BSW degree admissions, which involved representing QUB at regional meetings with the NI Degree Partnership, the NISCC, Trust partners, voluntary sector representatives, and the admissions staff within QUB and UU. I took lead responsibility for coordinating information evenings and offer holder events for prospective BSW degree students, oversaw the shortlisting process and admission interviews. This role also involved assessing the suitability of applicants, in relation to their academic qualifications (i.e. cognate degrees), conflicts of interest and criminal convictions. I chaired meetings with applicants who declared criminal convictions and attended admissions review panels to present applicants deemed unsuitable.

In 2019-2021, I was Chair of the Regional Admissions Committee, which is attended by admissions and academic staff from Queen's University, Ulster University, Belfast Metropolitan College, and representatives from the NI Degree in Social Work Partnership, the Northern Ireland Social Care Council and social work agencies. I had leadership responsibility for chairing meetings, identifying and escalating risks to the Degree Partnership Governance Committee and Board, developing and proposing options to address risks and issues (i.e. removal of personal statements for shortlisting, transition to pre-recorded interviews in response to covid-19, and developing/testing Social Work Match (SWM) to promote values based recruitment into social work).

In response to a request from the Widening Participation Unit in Queen's, I proposed and accepted a new administrative role in September 2021, as BSW Pathway Coordinator. This involved teaching and assessing school aged students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, who may face disadvantage when applying for higher education, due to their personal, family or socioeconomic circumstances. The first year of the programme was delivered to 24 students, who engaged in online and face-to-face teaching, they lived in the student accommodation during a summer school, and participated in a range of individual and group activities. Teaching delivery, assessment and mentoring were co-facilitated by PhD Facilitators and Academic Guides (undergraduate social work students). This role promotes citizenship and engagement with school leavers, widens participation in Higher Education, and promotes diversity of applicants to social work training across Northern Ireland. Feedback from students was extremely positive, with most gaining further clarity on the social work role, the range of service user groups and settings as well as the different skills, knowledge and values that underpin practice. 




In 2020, I was invited to join the European Association of Palliative Care (EAPC) Social Workers Reference Group and the World Hospice Special Palliative Care Social Work network. In 2021, I was appointed as co-chair of the group. One of the first objectives was to conduct an international online survey to determine the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of palliative care social work services, and to capture the impact on social work staff. I am Principal Investigator for this research study. 

In 2020, I was invited to join the World Hospice Palliative Care Social Work Network. In 2021, I was nominated to co-chair the Research Committee with Professor Ellen Csikai (University of Alabama). Our first objective was to ascertain the research priorities/interests of members of the WHPCSW Networ, and to identify existing research skills to promote mentorship, and to identify gaps in research skills or knowledge.

In January 2022, I was nominated by the EAPC Board to become a member of the Scientific Committee of the EAPC18th World Congress.

In January 2022, I assumed Chairing responsibility for the Northern Ireland Association of Palliative Care Social Workers.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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