Author Archives: Dominic

Ever wonder what you might do after your PhD?

Vicky was a PhD student at the School of Nursing and Midwifery nearly two years ago and has kindly written a blog piece for us, telling us a little bit about what her life has been like post – PhD…

Following a BSc and MSc in psychology, I completed my PhD at Cardiff University in the department of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010. My research focused in the area of health psychology and addressed psychosocial predictors of PTSD, anxiety and depression in first admission acute coronary syndrome (ACS) patients. This research involved developing a cardiac specific threat and coping questionnaire and working hands on, in a hospital environment, with acute cardiac patients. I discovered through out this research that the part of the PhD I found particularly rewarding was working within a clinical environment and having face-to-face contact with patients. This confirmed my long-term goal to pursue a career in clinical psychology.

Life can sometimes feel as if it is on hold towards the end of your PhD but I have found that it soon picks up pace after hand in! Following completion of my viva in early 2011, I married my then boyfriend of four years James. We decided to take an extended honeymoon by travelling to New Zealand for a year in order to work and explore. We settled in the Northland of New Zealand and I worked as part of nation wide research team for Otago University. This research was a Multi-level Intervention for Suicide Prevention (MISP) project. I worked as the northland representative looking at the efficacy of a series of intervention upon ED presentations for suicide, suicide ideation and self-harm. 

As this research contract draws to a close, my husband and I are currently in the process of applying for residency in New Zealand so that we have the option to stay a bit longer and I am applying for clinical psychology training both in the UK and in Wellington, NZ. Coming to the end of a PhD was a scary transition in to ‘real life’ but the gap left in my life by the PhD was soon be filled with numerous other opportunities and I look back fondly on my student days.


How did I end up doing a PhD?

I became a nurse relatively late in life. I had spent sixteen years in local government and it looked like I was going to spend another sixteen (and more) when I had my epiphany. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for the council. I wanted to be a nurse. I was lucky enough to find myself at a point in my life where I could take a chance on a new career move and so I made the break and handed in my notice. It was as terrifying as it was exhilarating!

I managed to get a job in a local nursing home as a carer and I also started work on my application to UCAS for the nursing degree course. I was eventually offered a place by Swansea University and set off to Singleton to make my fortune. What has happened since has been the most incredible journey for me. I have seen a world that I didn’t even know existed, the highs coming as thick and fast as the lows to start with. I will never forget my first shift as long as I live. Scary stuff!

I absolutely loved my training – it was a struggle to start, I will admit. The first year of university was a real challenge – I’d not been in a classroom for over ten years. But once I began to understand what was expected of me in the classroom (and how to write an essay), it became easier(ish). The learning opportunities I had as a student nurse on placement were incredible – so much going on, so many things to get involved in. I spent time in theatres, rehabilitation, orthopaedics, community nursing and much more. That was a chance in a lifetime experience which I like to think I grabbed with both hands. Yes, it wasn’t always smooth sailing and being a student nurse was not always an easy role for me, but the way the course was structured meant that there was always an end in sight if things were a little tough. I learned to take what I could from these experiences, good and bad, and move on a little older and a little wiser (hopefully).

I came to work in Cardiff when I qualified and when I think about my first staff nurse post I still get a warm glow. (However, the cynic in me likes to remind me that perhaps is wasn’t always warm and fuzzy.) As much as I was enjoying my new career, I had also been bitten by the learning bug. I stayed on at Swansea University, studying public health and partnerships in care, while nursing in Cardiff. As that course was coming to an end, I found myself thinking what could I do next?

I was advised me to speak to the PhD programme director at Swansea University and we discussed out my areas of interest and what research ideas I might have. We found that we shared some common research interests and he agreed to act as my supervisor, helping me to prepare a research proposal and make funding applications. The best advice I could give to anyone trying to secure funding for a PhD is to persevere and believe in yourself. It is highly competitive and I experienced setbacks and rejections, but I was determined to get there. That my supervisor had confidence in me (and was experienced in funding applications!) was also a great help. I was awarded a NISCHR Studentship in 2011. A real bonus was that securing this studentship meant that I was able to study my own research topic – patient involvement in safer surgery initiatives.

I started my PhD in Swansea University April 2011 and transferred to Cardiff University SONMS in October 2011. I will be handing in my Big Book in March 2014. If everything goes to plan.

I have to pinch myself sometimes that I have been able to do so much in the last few years. I was hopeful that nursing would present me with some opportunities, but I never thought it would lead to me doing a PhD.