Self-funded PhD opportunities

The influence of elimination-related environmental features on falls and injuries in older adults

  • Application end date: Applications accepted all year round
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: School of Health Sciences and Social Work
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr. Amy Drahota

We welcome year-round applications from Home/EU/Overseas self-funded students and applicants seeking their own funding for the following project:

Research Project Code - HSSW1561015

Many falls and fall-related injuries occur in situations related to toilet use, a situation that can be compounded by unfamiliar environments, such as healthcare settings, in which individuals are in poorer health and at therefore at even higher risk of both falls and injury. The need to eliminate faeces and urine is a natural bodily function, often taken for granted. Yet for those who find themselves in need of assistance, it can become much more than an issue of physical function, but an issue of dignity, emotional wellbeing, self-identity, and confidence. Together with staffing behaviours, the design of the environment surrounding elimination needs has the potential to promote independence and wellbeing, as well as reduce the risks associated with falls and injury; however this topic remains relatively under-researched.

This project will explore the environmental characteristics surrounding the elimination needs of older adults in health and social care settings. Commodes are typically positioned at right-angles to the patient bed to facilitate patient transfers, yet should a patient fall on getting up from the commode, they are potentially at greater risk of injury than if the commode were turned to face the bed. Uncertainty remains around the trade-offs between dignity, falls, fall-related injuries, ease of transfer, manual handling, and staff resourcing, when it comes to commode positioning. Further design issues revolve around the type and positioning of toilet roll dispensers, which may for example become particularly pertinent for individuals experiencing unilateral weakness as a result of stroke (imagine for instance the toilet roll dispenser being placed on the opposite side to your functioning arm). This novel area of study lends itself to a mixed methods PhD, incorporating a systematic review, a randomised trial of commode positioning, and observational (e.g. comparing falls data across different environments/conditions) and/or qualitative research exploring the various implications of elimination-related environmental design for individuals with different needs.

Training will be provided in a range of research methods, and topic specific expertise. Research and skills training is also available through the University-wide Graduate School. This research will contribute to a growing body of activity in the field of environmental design and falls research, based in the School of Health Sciences and Social Work, which is complemented by strong expertise in research methodologies and collaborative working. The PhD candidate will also benefit from being part of the University of Portsmouth Ageing Network (UPAN), and the associated support mechanisms offered through this cross-disciplinary network.

Applicants for the PhD programme are expected to have a good first degree (minimum upper second class Honours degree or equivalent) and ideally a Masters (or equivalent) in a relevant subject area.

Enquiries: Interested candidates are encouraged to contact Dr. Amy Drahota on 02392 844432 or as well as the admissions team at

How to apply:

To apply or make an enquiry, please visit postgraduate research: Health Sciences and Social Work

Applications should use our standard application forms and follow the instructions given under the ‘Research Degrees’ heading on the following webpage:

When applying please note the project code - HSSW1561015

Alternatively you may receive a hard copy by contacting the Faculty of Science, Postgraduate Admissions Office, St. Michael's Building, White Swan Road, Portsmouth, PO1 2DT. Tel: +44 (0)23 9284 5550.