ACU (Australian Catholic University)


Issue 8, Autumn 2013

Thinking in threes

Thinking in threes_THUMB

When you condense four years of research and hours of intellectual wrestling into three minutes, time really does fly. A finalist in last year’s Three Minute Thesis competition, ACU PhD student Peta Drury gives us a small taste of her research 

“One in six Australians will suffer a stroke. Should you or a loved one experience a stroke, you would expect the care given by nurses to be based on proven studies.

According to Peta Drury’s PhD research, this may not be the case.

“For the past 10 years we have known that while a patient suffers irreversible brain damage as a result of the stroke, there is potential to salvage surrounding brain tissue and limit the damage by effectively managing fever, sugar and swallowing”, Peta explained.

“I examined the medical records of over 700 patients and found that over 75 per cent of patients did not receive Panadol to treat a fever, over 50 per cent did not receive insulin to treat high sugar levels and over 60 per cent did not receive a simple swallow test when they were first admitted.”

Stroke is caused by a clot or a bleed in the brain and is Australia’s second biggest cause of death and a leading cause of disability.

The results of Peta’s study illuminated the need for improved management protocols. The second part of her research was to implement a randomised control program which divided 19 hospitals into two groups: one that received a protocol for the management of fever, sugar levels and swallowing, and one that did not.

“I found that patients who were admitted to the hospitals using the management protocol were less likely to develop fever, less likely to have high sugar and more likely to receive a swallow test.”

Significantly, the study also revealed that those patients who were treated using the management protocol were 16 per cent more likely to be alive and independent three months after their stroke.

“The results suggest that changing nurses’ behaviour can be just as important as any medical breakthrough and we must continue to investigate simple approaches to help get up-to-date with what we know works.”

Peta presented her research at the Three Minute Thesis finals and was chosen as one of eight higher degree research student finalists from universities in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

Peta said that participating in the finals was an excellent experience that encouraged her to focus on the key points of her years of work.

“Having only three minutes to present encourages you to focus on what is important and synthesise that into something that the general community can understand. I often have friends and colleagues ask me what my research is about – now I have a short description to share with anyone, anytime.

Three Minute Thesis Competition

Three Minute Thesis is a research competition first developed by the University of Queensland in 2008. The competition is an exercise in developing academic and research communication skills. Presenters are given three minutes and one static PowerPoint slide to explain their research. In 2013, all PhD and MPhil students at ACU are invited to participate in the competition.

More information about the Three Minute Thesis competition can be found at

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