Q&A with Dr Caleb Ferguson
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Q&A with Dr Caleb Ferguson

An education program to promote self-care for people living with atrial fibrillation (INFORM-AF)

Dr Caleb Ferguson is a Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Western Sydney Nursing & Midwifery Research Centre.  He holds a joint appointment at Western Sydney University and Western Sydney Local Health District. Dr Ferguson is a registered nurse with over 10 years’ clinical experience caring for people with stroke and other neurological and cardiovascular conditions.

Dr Caleb Ferguson’s research focuses on patient-centred approaches to the management of atrial fibrillation, stroke prevention and digital health.

What are you currently researching?

My Heart Foundation fellowship identifies the educational and self-management needs of people living with atrial fibrillation (the most common heart rhythm disorder). We partner with people living with atrial fibrillation clinicians and key stakeholders to co-design and co-produce a mobile health education program. The program aims to inform people about their condition and how to manage it. The education program will involve interactive case studies and questions and be delivered to people via smart-phones. This program will be trialled and evaluated in Western Sydney.

What difference will your research make to people’s cardiovascular health in Australia?

It's hoped that our research will enhance people’s knowledge of atrial fibrillation, including the risk reduction strategies and the treatment options that are available. It’s hoped that in the long term, this will improve a person’s quality of life, help them to manage their condition, and keep them out of hospital.

What motivated you to do your research?

I have worked clinically as a registered nurse for over 10 years with people who come into hospital with stroke. Atrial fibrillation is a major risk factor for having a stroke. I often witnessed first-hand, the life-changing and devastating impacts of stroke. Yet, many of these atrial fibrillation-related strokes are highly preventable. I see the problem as threefold:

1) better screening and detection of atrial fibrillation
2) improving treatment with medicines and lifestyle interventions 
3) interventions that support self-management over a person’s life.  

My doctoral research focused on:

  • Improving how anticoagulation medicines (medicines which prevent blood clots) are prescribed

  • How to encourage people to keep taking their medicines.

  • The better atrial fibrillation is managed, the less people will experience stroke and other life-changing consequences of the condition.

Are there any achievements or discoveries from your research you can share with us?

Over the last 12 months, I've been elected a Fellow of the European Society of Cardiology and a Fellow of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand. I was also appointed as the Cardiovascular Nursing Editor of Heart, Lung & Circulation (a journal that publishes cardiovascular disease research); it is a real privilege to serve in this role.

I was thrilled to receive a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant, which is a five year grant (2021-2026) This grant will extend my current Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship program of research and will enable me to further evaluate the INFORM-AF intervention, and how the findings can be put into practice.

I am currently wrapping up a research project that examines the design and application of wearable heart monitoring technologies in practice. This work highlights the pitfalls in design from people and clinicians’ perspectives. It reinforces the need to partner with people who are likely to use the technology when designing devices, to ensure they are useful and practical in everyday life.

Do you have a message for Heart Foundation supporters?

Thank you for your generous donations and support. Since my Heart Foundation award, I have been partnering with people and clinicians in the co-design of a new educational and self-management program for atrial fibrillation. I've also been successful in securing five years’ future funding from the NHMRC to build and strengthen this research and to enable robust evaluation and the ability to put the findings into practice. I appreciate your support and commitment to cardiovascular nursing research in Australia. Together we can make a positive impact to improve the quality of life for people living with atrial fibrillation and to help fight the devastating consequences of stroke.

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