Debbie Clark

PhD Student

PhD start date: October 2021
PhD project title: The dark side of standardisation: When is it safer to ‘work around’ a protocol
PhD supervisors: Professor Jane O’Hara, Professor Rebecca Lawton


Debbie qualified as a Nurse in 1998 and has spent most of her clinical career working within Critical Care at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. Debbie completed a B. Med Sci in Critical Care Nursing in 2004.

Since 2008, Debbie has worked at Sheffield Hallam University, most recently as a Principal Lecturer in Adult Nursing. Debbie completed an MSc in Healthcare Education in 2016. Whilst working within education Debbie has focused upon enhancing patient safety, human factors, and quality improvement within pre and post registration nurse education.

During her lecturing career, Debbie has enjoyed a secondment with the Yorkshire and Humber Improvement Academy which allowed her to work with the team to support regional work on Human Factors education and collaborated on a Health Foundation funded safety project: The measurement and monitoring of safety framework (Vincent, 2013)

Debbie is currently undertaking a PhD with the University of Leeds funded by THIS Institute.

PhD Overview:  

Debbie’s PhD is concerned with exploring how and in what circumstances a flexible approach to safety management supports safety. The work aims to understand how, when and if ‘work arounds’ contribute to safe care and will explore the impact of using Safety II approaches within healthcare.

Initially a scoping review will be used to map the when, why and what type of standards are work round within healthcare. A focused ethnography within a range of different healthcare settings with then be conducted to observe adherence to or deviation from specified standards. This data will then be used to inform a series of stakeholder workshops to try and establish safe parameters for when workarounds could be used. The safe parameters (work as done) will then be tested against the exemplar standard (work as imagined) in a simulated environment to explore the impact on pre-determined outcomes such as efficiency and safety.

Research interests

Patient Safety, Human Factors, Critical Care