Top European award for Heart Foundation researcher

Heart failure nurse Dr. Simone Inkrot has just received a European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Nursing and Allied Professions Investigator Award at the ESC Congress in Munich.

Presented in recognition of outstanding scientific work, this prestigious award acknowledged the importance of her Heart Foundation-funded research on the link between health professional empathy and patient self-care.

With a long-standing interest in how empathy influences people’s ability to look after themselves, Inkrot received a Heart Foundation Māori Cardiovascular Fellowship in 2015 to undertake the study alongside co-investigator Debbie Chappell. 

The former Waikato DHB clinical nurse specialist, who has a Master of Science and PhD from Berlin’s Charité University Hospital, says heart failure care is about supporting people’s self-care skills.

“People need to know what to do to keep themselves well,” Inkrot says. “When a patient becomes unwell, education and support are key to getting well again.

“We know that in combination with medical and nursing treatment, self-care can play a major role in preventing deterioration and hospitalisation for people with a chronic condition such as heart failure. What we’re not sure on is which specific ingredients of care make or break a person’s ability to self-care.”

Inkrot’s research looks at the level of empathy perceived during consultations between health professionals and people with heart failure. “Is there a correlation? My hypothesis was that higher perceived empathy during consultation leads to higher self-care ability.”

People with heart failure were asked to rank their ability to self-care, as well as whether they thought their health practitioner was empathetic towards them. She also asked practitioners to complete the survey to see if a patient’s perceived ability to self-care matched the practitioner’s thoughts.

Data on Māori patients was also analysed during the cross-sectional study. “We know that, statistically, Māori patients generally have lower healthcare outcomes, so that part of the research was very important,” she says.

Her presentation at the European Society of Cardiology EuroHeartCare congress in Norway in 2014, about the difference in heart failure between Māori and New Zealand Europeans, also resulted in best presentation and best abstract awards.

Inkrot believes her research has the potential to benefit many New Zealanders, not just those living with heart failure.

“Every New Zealander is likely to have encounters with healthcare providers at some point in their lives. I’m hoping to encourage health care professionals to use the power of interpersonal connections in their interactions with patients.”

Inkrot says she feels honoured by the Heart Foundation’s decision to trust in, and fund, her research.

“And I am humbled and deeply grateful to every person who has donated money to enable them to do so.”

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