We have captured some of our projects as case studies, to provide further insight into the work we do, together with our clients.
Multiple Sclerosis Research Flagship, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, (University of Tasmania)
Background Menzies Institute researchers work across a range of areas, and the Institute is well known for its positive impact on the health of Tasmanians. Ahead of partnering with Moira Clay Consulting (MCC), the Institute’s scientific leadership team had been considering the most productive areas on which to focus, with the goal of increasing research impact. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research was well-established as an area of strength for the Institute. MS is a condition that disproportionately affects Tasmanians and capitalising on the strengths of the MS research teams was considered a potential pathway to grow research impact.
Challenge When the Menzies leadership approached MCC, a number of aspects to the project required consideration. The principal challenge to boosting impact was the wide range of research teams at Menzies doing research relevant to MS. There were also a number of external stakeholders with a strong interest in reducing the impact of MS for individuals and the community. It was evident that the Institute had a strong and positive community profile, and the research being undertaken by the various teams was of very high quality. MCC was asked to assess the feasibility of whether bringing teams together under a shared vision, while also actively involving people with a lived experience of MS and external partners would accelerate research outcomes.
Project The initial phase of this project involved looking at the full picture of the MS research environment at the Institute; funding, connections, publications, other players in this space, the community impact and so on were all considered. The MCC team wanted to form a complete picture of the work being done on MS research by the Institute, how it was done, who was involved and who it impacted. Two workshops were then facilitated with internal and external stakeholders respectively. Importantly, the external stakeholder groups included members of the community with a lived experience of MS and the non-government organisation, MS Australia. Workshop participants responded positively to the concept of creating an MS Flagship at the Institute, based on the evidence presented. Stakeholders understood and supported the potential benefits of a Flagship post-implementation. Anticipated outcomes included attracting more funding and increasing research impact as a result of collaborative research efforts that brought together experts with different skills, perspectives, approaches and expertise and active involvement of people with lived experience of MS.
Outcomes and Learning Once the consultation phase was complete and the Institute developed the framework to bring researchers together, the narrative of MS research at the Institute changed. The launch of the Flagship in 2017 led to an integrated pipeline of research from basic discovery science to clinical, public health, health economics and implementation research. Since 2017, the Institute has significantly amplified its MS research impact. Collaboration, partnership, and team effort have played an enormous part in this success. The Flagship model relies on research leaders creating opportunities for research teams to collaborate. Collaboration has fostered a sense of shared purpose for the researchers, which has spilled over into the community; all those involved in the MS Flagship share the goal of increasing research outcomes to decrease the impact of MS on individuals and the community. Along with a focus on collaboration, the Flagship approach included the development of a governance model including two advisory groups: one scientific and one for consumers. These groups enabled even deeper collaboration and built deeper research partnerships, both between researchers themselves and between researchers and community. The active involvement of the consumer group has been fundamental to the success of the Flagship. Over time, through the MS Flagship, the Institute has been successful in attracting research funding, and the collaborative research projects have led to more positive outcomes for those living with MS. Knocking down the walls that existed between researchers, between research teams and between research and the community has led to benefits across the board for the Institute and those living with MS. The Flagship has also attracted the interest of researchers outside of the Institute, with some applying to work at Menzies because they can see the benefits of joining the Flagship. The Institute is now looking to introduce a Flagship for researchers investigating cardiovascular disease. The approach of developing an MS Flagship at the Institute clearly demonstrated what can be achieved when individuals work effectively together towards a shared purpose.
The Department of Neonatal Medicine at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
Background Moira Clay Consulting (MCC) was approached by the new Director of the Department of Neonatal Medicine at The Royal’s Children’s Hospital just before the global COVID19 pandemic hit in early 2020. Working in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU) is simultaneously rewarding and incredibly challenging, requiring highly specialised staff across a number of disciplines. The new Director wanted to prioritise a fresh departmental strategy that would provide a strategic and operational roadmap for the future across the greater care domains of clinical excellence, education, quality improvement, research and staff wellbeing and development. MCC was engaged to assist with the development of this strategy.
Challenge The NICU team at The Royal Children’s Hospital cares for babies with the most complex health issues in Victoria and beyond. At the time, they faced a number of difficulties including an apparent disconnect between NICU staff and the rest of the hospital, as well as challenges with regard to ongoing education and development of team members. The senior leaders of the hospital strongly supported the move to develop a new departmental forward-looking plan.
Project Development of the NICU Departmental Plan involved several stages of consultation. Key people within the hospital, as well as stakeholders to the hospital (parents) were interviewed. The goal was to seek input on the desired future state for the Department of Neonatal Medicine, what is needed to achieve this, and any relevant barriers or enablers to success. Staff engagement in the project was essential, so a survey of over 200 staff was conducted. This was purposefully designed to be easy to respond to and participation was very high (>50%), indicating strong levels of engagement. A series of online sessions were run with the bedside nursing and medical staff and the senior leaders in the department to provide another forum for consultation.
Outcomes and Learning Through the interviews and survey process, it was identified that NICU staff were highly skilled, dedicated and committed people who are routinely required to perform hard, challenging work. Departmental culture emerged as one of the most important things to staff and they were interested in making improvements. Even before a plan was drafted, the process of consultation, discussion, surveys and interviews saw a positive shift in culture. Due to the impact of the COVID19 pandemic, unforeseen at the start of the process, it took two years to draft the final plan, but by then many components of the work identified as needed through consultation, had been progressed with great benefits. Alongside a shift in culture, the plan identified the need to prioritise staff education and development, focus on parent groups, commit to research and align the team’s shared goals and aspirations. Due to the collaborative nature of the process undertaken by MCC and NICU leadership, identifying the shared goals and aspirations was achievable. Importantly, the Leadership Team, including the new Director and Nurse Unit Manager (NUM), was completely open to the process, which resulted in a more authentic and actionable strategy. The leaders’ ability to bring integrity and character to the process was key to success, as was the open and willing participation of all staff and stakeholders. The collaborative, outcome-oriented approach of MCC was valued by all involved. As a result of the process undertaken, the NICU team is working better together and is more connected with other areas of the hospital. A new group of leaders has been identified. Team members feel heard and respected by their peers and, while the nature of the work they undertake remains challenging, there is genuine optimism for the future direction of the Department. While the new Director and NUM, whose vision for a high performing team triggered the development of the strategy, have been influential in this process, all staff have engaged with and embraced the culture change. Everyone acknowledges there is work still to be done, but the benefits already felt by staff motivate them to maintain progress. In this new culture, innovation seems more possible than before, which is having positive impacts for staff and for families. Emerging from COVID19, with the new departmental strategy in place, means the team is well positioned to respond to the challenges that lie ahead. Team members are more collaborative, and better connected with the hospital and families, setting the NICU team up to deliver much needed, highly specialised care in the challenging context in which they operate.