Research is important too!

Posted on 05 October 2015 by Dr Maria Vassos

In her guest blog, University of Queensland research psychologist Dr Maria Vassos explains the importance of research in generating knowledge to support policy and practice within the disability sector.

In 2009, after finishing my training as a clinical psychologist, I did some soul searching and came to the realisation that client work was not for me. It was at this point that I decided to pursue a career in research. Best decision I have ever made!

The beauty of research, especially research related to the disability service system or any service system in general, is that it allows one to generate knowledge about service issues of interest, be it knowledge around why the issue occurs in the first place, or knowledge around effective strategies to remove the influence of that issue all together. This knowledge can then be used to inform policy and practice within the service system. Because of my natural curiosity to understand why things happen, and the potential of research to contribute to new initiatives to enhance quality service delivery on a much larger scale, pursuing a career in psychological research instead of psychological practice was definitely more suited to me.

Since 2010, I have worked as a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland. My specific role has been to undertake research that could inform improved service initiatives to better support people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Throughout my fellowship, I have had the privilege of working with many disability support organisations and professional bodies, with Yooralla being a major contributor to my research.

My greatest fear as a researcher is having my research findings go to waste, that my findings will go unnoticed or won’t be used to improve practice. My work with Yooralla thus far has relieved this fear. From day one, Yooralla staff have been nothing but supportive of my research endeavours and of me as an individual researcher. Not only has Yooralla promoted my work within their organisation and to the wider community, they have also acknowledged the value of the work I am doing for their organisation. I have had involvement with several committees within Yooralla to not only discuss my research findings, but to also work alongside staff to conceptualise better service approaches.

For example, one of my major areas of interest is disability support workers, and the organisational factors that can influence the development of job stress and burnout within this group of workers. My work in this area has allowed me to gather very specific knowledge about the support worker population, and Yooralla has tapped into my knowledge on many occasions to seek feedback on new support worker recruitment initiatives.

As the disability service sector moves into new and exciting territory with the adoption of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it is now more crucial than ever for research to play a role in informing the best ways to support people with disability and their families, and for services to be involved in research and using evidence to inform their practices.

Yooralla’s approach to research is commendable, and I look forward to supporting Yooralla’s research endeavours in future.

Author profile:

Maria VassosDr Maria Vassos is a research psychologist from University of Queensland. She has been working closely with Yooralla since 2013 to undertake several projects related to improving service quality, not only within Yooralla, but in the wider disability service system. Her research focuses on parents of children with disabilities, and how disability support organisations can better support parents in their parenting role. She has also undertaken projects related to the disability workforce, with a keen interest in disability support worker wellbeing, and how support organisations can enhance their processes to reduce worker stress and burnout.


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