Dr Johanna Spiers


Johanna Spiers, Jonathan A Smith, Mariangels Ferrer-Duch, Ramona Moldovan, Jay Roche, Rhona MacLeod (2020)Evaluating a genetic counseling narrative group session for people who have tested positive for the Huntington's disease expansion: An interpretative phenomenological analysis, In: Journal of genetic counseling29(6)pp. 1015-1025

Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder characterized by motor problems, cognitive impairment, and mood disturbances. Given the emotional elements of both HD itself and the testing process for it, psychological interventions may be helpful for those families impacted by HD. A stand-alone genetic counseling narrative group has been offered by one regional genetics clinic in the north of England to support people's coping following predictive genetic testing for HD. Groups are held 4-5 times per year with patients attending a group on a single occasion. This study assessed participants' experiences of attending a group using the qualitative method interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Telephone interviews were conducted with 12 people who had a mutation-positive HD predictive test result and who had taken part in a genetic counseling narrative group session between November 2017 and February 2018. Participants were asked about their experiences of the group and any impact it had had on their lives. Four themes emerged: 'The power of the group, 'Active elements of the narrative exercise', 'Subsequent impact of the session', and 'Another voice'. Participants described the positive impact of being able to meet and empathize with others in a similar situation, the group's positive impact on their mood and future outlook, and its beneficial impact on disclosure. While most participants were positive about the session, the final theme presented the voices of two participants for whom the groups were poorly timed. Given the sessions' generally positive impact, we recommend other centers consider offering people impacted by HD similar sessions.

Emma Maynard, Aaron Pycroft, Johanna Spiers (2021)"They say 'yes, I'm doing it... .and I'm fine' ": the lived experience of supporting teenagers who misuse drugs, In: Journal of social work practice35(2)143pp. 143-157 Routledge

We present an original phenomenological study conducted with a local authority Early Help and Prevention social care team, in which we investigated the lived experience of parents and practitioners of young people who misuse drugs amid a practice agenda focused on harm reduction. Our findings reflect practitioners' lived experience of direct work with young people and parents, and parents' approach to their risk-taking children. Our data identifies key concerns reflecting wider social discourse surrounding young people, in particular; the juxtaposition of adolescents as both vulnerable children, and agentic risk-takers, in the context of children's rights, and the role of adults in young lives. Our findings indicate a complex position amid multifactorial needs, risk, and offending behaviour, and reveals tensions between professionally driven harm reduction approaches, versus parents' attempts to control and protect their children, and highlight the complex transition made may protective adults as agentic adolescents forge their life chances.

Johanna Spiers, Farina Kokab, Marta Buszewicz , Carolyn A. Chew-Graham, Alice Dunning , Anna K. Taylor , Anya Gopfert, Maria van Hove, Kevin Rui-Han Teoh, Louis Appleby, James Martin, Ruth Riley (2022)Recommendations for improving the working conditions and cultures of distressed junior doctors, based on a qualitative study and stakeholder perspectives, In: BMC Health Services Research BMC

Background: Doctors, including junior doctors, are vulnerable to greater levels of distress and mental health difficulties than the public. This is exacerbated by their working conditions and cultures. While this vulnerability has been known for many years, little action has been taken to protect and support junior doctors working in the NHS. As such, we present a series of recommendations from the perspective of junior doctors and other relevant stakeholders, designed to improve junior doctors’ working conditions and, thus, their mental health. Methods: We interviewed 36 junior doctors, asking them for recommendations for improving their working conditions and culture. Additionally, we held an online stakeholder meeting with a variety of healthcare professionals (including junior doctors), undergraduate medical school leads, postgraduate speciality school leads and NHS policymakers where we asked what could be done to improve junior doctors’ working conditions. We combined interview data with notes from the stakeholder discussions to produce this set of recommendations. Results: Junior doctor participants and stakeholders made organisational and interpersonal recommendations. Organisational recommendations include the need for more environmental, staff and educational resources as well as changes to rotas. Interpersonal recommendations include changes to communication and recommendations for better support and teamwork. Conclusion: We suggest that NHS policymakers, employers and managers consider and hopefully implement the recommendations set out by the study participants and stakeholders as reported in this paper and that the gold standards of practice which are reported here (such as examples of positive learning environments and supportive supervision) are showcased so that others can learn from them.

Almost half of NHS doctors are junior doctors, while high proportions are women and/or Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals. Discrimination against this population is associated with poorer career-related outcomes and unequal representation. We aimed to qualitatively explore junior doctors’ experience of workplace racial and gender-based discrimination, and its impact on their psychological distress (PD). In this study, we carried out a secondary analysis of data from a UK-based parent study about junior doctors’ working cultures and conditions. Interview data was examined using thematic analysis. Transcripts (n = 14) documenting experiences of race and/or gender-based discrimination were sampled and analysed from 21 in-depth interviews conducted with UK junior doctors. Four themes were generated about the experiences and perpetrators of discrimination, the psychological impact of discrimination, and organisational interventions that tackle discrimination. Discrimination in various forms was reported, from racially charged threats to subtle microaggressions. Participants experienced profoundly elevated levels of PD, feeling fearful, undermined, and under-confident. Discrimination is associated with elevated levels of PD, whilst negatively impacting workforce sustainability and retention. This reduces the opportunity for more diversity in NHS medical leadership. We encourage NHS hospitals to review their policies about discrimination and develop in-person workshops that focus on recognising, challenging, and reporting workplace discrimination.