Patients & Public

Picture of MSSU Bridge Event June 2019

Volunteer Opportunities – Patient Partners in Health Research

The Maritime SPOR SUPPORT Unit (MSSU) can help you find an opportunity to get involved with patient-oriented research. Contact us, if you:

  • Would like to talk about your interest in patient-oriented research
  • Would like to ask about different ways to get involved
  • Would like to volunteer to join a committee or research team

The Patient Engagement Coordinator, or another MSSU staff member, will follow up with you to help you take the next steps.


The MSSU is a research support group with offices in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. The MSSU partners with researchers, patients, provincial governments and health authorities to support patient oriented research. Patient-oriented research is when patients, researchers and other partners work together to do research that improves health care and informs health policy.

The MSSU is one SUPPORT Unit in the Canadian Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR). There are different SUPPORT Units outside the Maritimes who have similar goals. In addition to SUPPORT Units, SPOR Networks also lead patient-oriented research. Networks usually focus on specific health conditions such as chronic pain, or types of health care such as primary health care. Health authorities and other research teams also lead patient-oriented research.

All of these groups engage patients as partners and team members. Generally, patient partners:

  • Have personal experience of a health condition, of receiving health care, or as a caregiver
  • Are interested in drawing on their experience to contribute to team discussions
  • Can look at issues from different perspectives
  • Want to contribute to team discussions in an honest, respectful, and constructive way
  • Do not need to have experience working in research or health care – just an interest in learning about how research is done

Patients can have different roles in research. Here are some examples:

  • MSSU includes Patient Partners on committees that plan and direct its activities. These partners ask questions, discuss issues, and raise ideas that other members may not consider. Patient Partners are expected to attend a meeting every month, take part in discussions, and communicate with other members through e-mail.
  • SPOR Networks such as the Primary and Integrated Health Care Innovations Network include patients as members of research teams and committees. Patient team members help develop research questions, identify information that should be collected, and make sense of research findings. Patient team members are expected to attend regular meetings, provide feedback on research plans, and help with other research tasks.

There are many potential benefits to involving patients as partners in research. Patient partners can help research teams better understand the issues they are studying. This can lead to research that is more relevant. There are benefits to patient partners as well. For example, there are opportunities to share personal experiences, and guide research that improves health care.  There are also opportunities to learn about different kinds of research, network, and take part in conferences and workshops.

The MSSU helps patients and researchers work together. The MSSU provides training to help patients and researchers learn about working with each other. This includes online webinars and in-person workshops. MSSU staff also consult with research teams to plan activities, connect with new members, and write applications for funding.

Click here to learn about our partners in patient & public engagement