Monthly Archives: May 2012

Congratulations Dr. Sally Anstey

Sally had her viva yesterday and passed subject to minor corrections. Her viva lasted for one hour 45 minutes and her examiners were really impressed with her writing style (they found only three typos in the entire thesis) and her strong defence of her thesis. They added in their report that they are looking forward to reading this work in published papers and encourage her to present her work at international conferences. So Sally, once you have recovered, we look forward to hearing about your experience of the viva…

Who is better..?

When you are told that you should be contributing to a blog it would than seem that every event, conversation and observation is scrutinised to see if there is anything bloggable in the content! My life it would seem is reasonably unbloggable or so I thought, until a thought provoking conversation at work.

Let me take you back to the sunny week last summer. I had the day previously had all four wisdom teeth removed and therefore was at home drinking ice cream and utilising a minimal vocabulary, not something I am used to doing. The ten year old mentioned in a previous blog had come round with his father to replenish my supplies and finding me minimally interactive he decided to test out my mother with some philosophical debate. There was no warming up with general chit chat he went straight to the crux of the matter “who is better Sponge Bob or Mr. T?” For those of you who don’t know Sponge Bob is a cartoon character who lives in Bikini Bottom with his friend Patrick, a starfish and Mr. T is a member of the A-Team, a soldier of fortune who is on the run for a crime he and the team did not commit- clearly neither are real but to a ten year old they are pivotal members of his imagination.

My mum is sixty two years old and although there are no children in her life currently, she did have a career as a child psychologist, so although this question superficially made no sense to her she decided to play the “best form of defence is attack” card and returned the volley with “well who is happier?” The debate then continued for some time as to what makes people happy and why being on the run may not facilitate mental well being.

I was reminded of this conversation just the other day in work when I was introduced to someone as “this is Cath she used to work here” (the fact I still do seemed to have gone un-noticed, make of that what you will) “she doesn’t anymore as she has gone to the university to better herself”. I politely laughed this statement off but it did get me thinking, is doing a PhD going to make me better?

I would really like to think that I was at my best the day that I was born, I had not had a chance to forget any birthdays, run over any pets or say the wrong thing at a family party; my mother would argue against this she has the scar and weight gain to prove it! So if it is not going to make me a better human being what is it going to make a better!?

I can’t think that having a PhD will make me a better clinical nurse, I am not saying that I am a fabulous nurse by any stretch, but when thinking about some of the excellent nurses I have worked with over the years none of them have had a PhD so that cannot be the answer.

So if during this process of “bettering” myself I am not going to improve as a person or as a clinician what was that statement all about? I am sure some of my previously primitive research skills will have improved as has my ability to use power point and to misfile things on End-Note but I don’t know that any of this is “bettering” myself. So let us return to my mother’s response in her assessment of who is better, who is happier? Taking happier as a proxy measure of better. We are now not comparing Sponge Bob with Mr. T (which quite frankly is fraught with problems as we are not comparing like with like) but me before I started my PhD to me in the middle of my PhD. Am I happier? The simple answer is yes I am happier as I am doing something that I find fulfilling and rewarding, in an entirely different way from clinical practice. It is quite liberating at the age of thirty six to realise that there are different things out there to be doing and that although I have the odd wobble (like not being able to write) you can always learn new things and change direction in life as many times as you like and as long as it makes you happy then it is probably making you better (or at least easier to live with- ask my mother!).

Mental health tips for a better PhD experience

Thank you very much Catherine that you discussed personal issues on this blog, this may inspire others to seek catharsis and gives me the chance to share while I am overseas. I learned personally much from your wise opinion and advice. I have no doubt that you will be a famous and successful Dr. soon. No one of us is strong in all aspects of life!! This is part of our nature as a human being. I don’t like mathematics and numbers; so I studied mental health which more about communication, while my wife enjoys solving difficult maths formulas ( she is wonderful maths teacher).

I think that without unpleasantness, no one will value happiness. Please imagine if you got a PhD without effort, it would not make sense. We will enjoy the success more after beating the challenges. This will increase our self esteem later on. We may share in the future how to solve health problems of other people. Our research findings may make a difference. We may lead research themes or projects later on. I think Dr. will be the first step of how to learn in a better way!!! I think the PhD will be a step to achieve our dreams….

As mental health nurse  I am able to give some tips related to writing during a PhD which may be useful to all colleagues:

1- Try to create motivation to yourself to finish your project. For example,   imagine that you are receiving your PhD certificate with all your friends clapping hands and you receiving wonderful congratulations.

2- Try to nurture yourself after each time you write something. For example, say “I will do my favourite activity if I write something” and if you don’t write, please don’t punish yourself.

3- Cheat your unconscious. For example, always say in a loud voice “I love writing and I very much enjoy writing in my project”. Try to talk daily about positive issues in writing to those around you.

4- Try to write upon your bed or desk positive words that your unconscious will read many times daily.

5- Try to listen to why other people like writing and how they deal with the PhD blues.

6- Try not to touch your project until you are in a good mood. Your unconscious will combine happiness and your project. If you don’t feel happy please try to fix your mood and come back.

7- Try to ask yourself, “what is my best manner to write?” For example, in summer I enjoy writing while I am naked on my bed!!!

8- Ask yourself “When I am more productive in writing? during morning, evening or at night?” Write according to your productivity.

9- 60% of academic achievement is based on psychological well being and the environment surrounding the student. Please try to solve any social difficulties to be able to focus on the academic issues only.

10- Try to do regular exercise, meditation, sleep 6-8 hours and eat healthily.

11-  Daily positive imagination is very important; try to taste the sweetness of success. After doing it many time you will feel the taste more and more.

12- Most of our internal dialogue is negative. This may be shocking; we should work hard to change our mentality and think in positive ways. For example: try to listen to your internal dialogue while you open your eyes and get up from bed, you may tell yourself that it’s too cold outside and I would like to stay in bed more…… but ohh I have much to do today…. ohhh.

13- Try to focus on positives only in your life and your project. if your mind focuses on something you will see it more.

14- We should try to put goals in our life to beat the boredom. It should be clear in your mind why your need the PhD challenge? What will a PhD add to me? Write it down by your bed or on your desk.

I hope some of the above may be useful. I love positive psychology  and I would like to thank Cath for opening this door of discussion.

New studentship opportunities- please spread the word

Dear All

It is great to have an opportunity to post on your blog (thanks Dominic), I really enjoy reading your posts, so please keep them coming- they really remind me of the issues I faced when I was doing my PhD – many, many years ago – they are all really relevant to anyone doing a PhD, whatever their topic. We now have 27 students on our programme, so I hope we hear more of your voices coming through over time.

After just awarding three of our international students (Mandayachepa, Mohammad and Cindy) with 1250 pounds each to support fieldwork and training as part of the 125 for 125 awards (they will also get a congratulatory letter from our VC),  and our RCBC Early Career PhD Fellowship (congratulations Hama Ngandu, who will be starting in October), I am pleased to announce new funding opportunities within the School.

We have three studentships funded by the School and we are looking for applicants with a first-class or very good upper second Honours degree, who are highly motivated and creative nurse, allied healthcare professional or social scientist with an interest in completing a PhD in an area that will strengthen or extend our School’s programme of research.

  • Exploring and enhancing communication and emotional support in maternity care: Supervised by Professor Billie Hunter and will be based within the Maternal, Child and Family Health and Wellbeing research group.
  • Teenagers and young adults’ experience of being involved in treatment decisions about their cancer: Supervised by Professor Daniel Kelly and will be based within the Workforce, Education and Innovation research group.
  • Supervised by Professor Jane Hopkinson and will be based within the Emotional, supportive and Palliative Care research group, examining one of the following topic areas:
    • Nutritional care of cancer patients and their families
    • Psychosocial support of patients with cancer cachexia and their families
    • Innovations in supportive care for people with chronic conditions and complex needs, for example dementia
    • Investigating the emotional needs of patients with cachexia in non-malignant conditions
    • Understanding the patient and family carer dynamic and its implications for quality of life and the management of health problems

For further information and contact details follow this link.

RCBC Wales PhD studentship

The School is a collaborator within the RCBC scheme, which had 6 studentships available. If you are interested in the Cardiff University studentship, then please get in touch with me. The advert and expression of interest application form/guidance can be found at this link.

Writers block?

I enter into this dialogue in the hope of some catharsis. I have a problem which, when said out loud, sounds rather banal if not a little ironic; my problem is writing! There, I have said it in a public arena, I cannot write. This seems to most people to be one of the most basic skills learned from a very early age along with reading and arithmetic so why am I finding it so difficult?

I don’t think it is writers block. I do write, my supervisor will provide testament to the fact that thousands of words regularly land in her inbox, I just do not seem to be able to express myself or locate “me” in the narrative. I am stuck between trying to portray my understanding of the story and providing an accurate account of the things that my very kind participants have told me. Am I telling my story or theirs?

Thinking back I have a suspicion that this may be rooted in my clinical background. I am not used to telling stories, more distilling the whole into bullet points; losing all of the nuances that it would seem I should be including in my current work. This I can see is not going to do justice to the stories told to me by volunteers and maybe it is this pressure that is preventing me from being able to just run free with my text.

People volunteered for my project believing that their experiences were going to help inform and hoping that in the future this may assist the experiences of others, no pressure there then!

That said, and rather perversely it would seem I can talk. Those of you who share an office with me would say that talking is one of my well practiced talents, if talking were an Olympic sport I would have the vocal chords to compete with the best! Whilst this talking talent has at times got me into trouble it has also talked me out of trouble and in many respects enabled me to do a good job at interviewing participants; when I remember to stop talking and let them speak! Maybe this could be the answer to my dilemma, I could record my narrative. It would take me until the Rio Olympics to transcribe but at least I would be using an existing talent to overcome a current deficit. So should anyone see me apparently talking to myself this is not the first sign of madness, I will in fact be committing my thoughts and musings to digital recording so that I, and my supervisor, are spared the agony of any further written ruminations.