An initiative to build research capacity within a physiotherapy department and Allied Health service: Hits and misses over a 24-year period

Kathy Stiller1

1Central Adelaide Local Health Network, Adelaide, Australia

Background: Building research capacity within a busy clinical allied health department is important but can be limited by time, resources and expertise. In 1995, a role was created in a physiotherapy department whereby an individual with an interest and expertise in clinical research was identified and a proportion of their workload (12 hours/week) designated to fulfil a research co-ordination role. The aim was to foster research and build research capacity. In 2015 this position was expanded from physiotherapy to a broader allied health role. This paper reports the achievements associated with this initiative, highlighting its successes, difficulties and failures.

Method: A retrospective descriptive review of research-related activities undertaken over a 24-year period within the Physiotherapy Department and Allied Health service of an adult, tertiary, public hospital was carried out.

Results: Since the introduction of a designated research co-ordinator in 1995 there have been 173 major publications involving allied health staff in peer-reviewed journals. Other successes have included numerous conference presentations, the broad range of clinical areas where research has been undertaken, the clinical relevance of this research, the large number of staff involved, collaboration with other hospital departments/universities and staff involvement in post-graduate degrees. Difficulties have included slow recruitment rates, resource issues and lack of a career structure for those interested in pursuing research as a career option. Failures have been infrequent but have included the need to abandon studies due to slow recruitment, and personal feelings of being a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’.

Conclusions: Identifying a clinician with an interest and expertise in clinical research and quarantining time to enable them to fulfil a broader research co-ordinating role has been successful at fostering research and building research capacity within both physiotherapy and then more broadly across an allied health service.


Kathy Stiller works 12 hours per week as allied health research coordinator for the Central Adelaide Local Health Network after having undertaken this position in physiotherapy only for 20 years. Prior to this Kathy worked in ICU at the Royal Adelaide Hospital for over 20 years.

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