My PhD experience

I had been working as an Infection Control Nurse at Chiang Rai Regional Hospital in Thailand for more than 15 years before I came to Cardiff for the Doctoral degree. I conducted my PhD studies from October 2007 to August 2011. The main objectives of my PhD research were two-fold. The first objective was to explore people’s beliefs about influenza and influenza vaccination, and to investigate factors that affected the vaccination decision of a sample of urban-dwelling Thai adults. To reach this objective, a qualitative research approach was adopted (study 1). The second objective was to test the effect of a Health Action Process Approach (HAPA) based leaflet and action planning intervention on influenza vaccination behaviours among this high-risk group (study 2). A controlled, before and after trial was conducted to evaluate the intervention effects. As the HAPA model was used as a theoretical framework for study two, the model’s predictive utility was, thus, also examined. The results of the first study supported the development of the leaflet used in study 2.

Doing my PhD has been both challenging and rewarding. It’s challenging because a PhD is a very unique programme that focuses on one particular area, and PhD candidates are expected to have a profound knowledge of the subject area. They need to be able to maintain their motivation and interest to stay focused on the research project over a three-year period. Therefore, self-discipline, enthusiasm, and resilience are indeed essential for PhD students. Also, studying for a PhD of this nature can be an isolating and lonely experience. Loneliness is an inevitable part of a PhD candidate’s life. It’s important to spend some time with friends and social activities. Fortunately, in my case, my supervisors were very supportive and approachable. The school of Nursing and Midwifery Studies (SONMS) provides a great, academically motivated environment with training workshops, regular seminars, and research meeting. Library facilities and IT support are also well provided. Additionally, I found that the administrative staff were very friendly and helpful. I had the opportunity to attend a large number of seminar/workshop series organised by the school and the university. I also shared my research experiences, exchanged ideas, and spent some leisure time with friends who studied for a PhD. This helped me to deal with the feeling of loneliness and isolation during my PhD study.

On the other hand, pursuing a PhD is very rewarding. A PhD programme developed both my reading and writing skills. It provided me the freedom to research my topic of interest, to make a research plan, and to develop my own ideas and arguments. Most importantly, it strengthened my analytical skills. Doing a PhD also helped me in building my self-confidence; I have become more self-reliant. Although there were some challenges that I had to face along my PhD journey, the PhD experience is well worth it. I still remember the feeling of excitement when my research paper was accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. In particular, it was an amazing sense of accomplishment when I completed my PhD thesis; there is something to be proud of in such an intellectual achievement!!

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