Exploring healthcare professional and patient therapeutic interactions in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome 

An opportunity to apply for a funded full-time PhD in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, UWE Bristol. The studentship will be co-funded by the Centre for Health and Clinical Research and Psychological Sciences Research Group, Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, UWE Bristol.

The expected start date of this studentship is 1 April 2017.

The closing date for applications is Monday 27 February 2017.

About the Studentship

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition of unknown cause, which arises after limb trauma, and has no cure. Its symptoms include severe pain and altered autonomic function in usually a single limb. The impact on the individual is reduced function, and severe distress arising from the pain, but also lack of understanding about the condition and future prognosis. Evidence-based guidelines recommend early engagement and movement of the painful limb by the person affected, accompanied by psychological support, education and analgesia. As the condition is relatively rare, there is a lack of knowledge in the general population and healthcare professionals, about the existence of CRPS, its cause and treatment. 

In a recent global online survey (n=>250) of healthcare professionals delivering care to people with CRPS, it was evident that the manner, in which healthcare professionals communicate the goals of treatment, in particular in relation to pain, varies hugely. In addition, healthcare professionals' perceptions about patients' adherence with their treatment advice suggests that communication between patients and healthcare professionals is sub-optimal. As early adherence to advice on movement of the affected limb, whilst living with pain, is thought to be essential to improve prognosis, then effective communication with frontline healthcare professionals, usually hand and physiotherapists, is essential.

The overarching aim of this doctoral studentship is therefore:

To gain a greater understanding of the frontline patient/ healthcare professional interactions in CRPS, from the perspectives of both parties, in order co-design an intervention that will deliver excellent therapeutic communication for the optimisation of patient outcomes.

This will be achieved via the following objectives:

1. To conduct a scoping review/or SLR of the literature on patient/healthcare professional communication in order to identify helpful and unhelpful behaviours

2. To observe in person, and via video recordings, patient and healthcare professional consultations in practice (physio and or hand therapists working in fracture services or community services), and conduct pre- and post-interviews with both parties to better understand goals/hopes prior to consultation, and information conveyed/information received post consultation. 

3. Informed by the literature and data analysis of real time consultations, co-design a prototype intervention (this maybe targeted at the patient and/or healthcare professional) with patients and healthcare professionals to improve communication and understanding between both parties.

4. Test the feasibility and acceptability of this intervention in practice and evaluate.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email Prof Candy McCabe (DoS) CHCR at candy.mccabe@uwe.ac.uk

Funding details

The studentship is available from 1 April 2017 for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend, which is currently £14,296 per annum.

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years (Home/EU rates only). Overseas applicants will be required to cover the difference between Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates in each year of study.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants must have a good honours degree (2.1 or equivalent) in a health related subject.

A recognized English language qualification is required.

How to apply


Please email your completed application to graduateschool@uwe.ac.uk by Monday 27 February 2017.

If it is not possible to submit your application via email, you may post your application to the following address:

UWE Graduate School
Room 3E37
University of the West of England
Coldharbour Lane
Frenchay, Bristol
BS16 1QY

Please be aware your application needs to arrive by the deadline date so please allow extra days for posting.

Application forms

Please complete and return the following forms:

Each of your referees must complete and return the following reference form to you as part of your application:

Please consult the application Guidance notes when completing the above forms. 

Please note: When submitting 'supporting documents' electronically, please ensure that all scanned documents are saved in black and white so that the size of the document is kept to a minimum.

Further information

Interviews will take place in the week commencing 13 March 2017. If you have not heard from us by Friday 3 March 2017, we thank you for your application, but on this occasion you have not been successful.

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