Not alone

Recently we’ve had several potential PhD students coming to see us and a common question that they ask is: have you had enough support during your PhD?  The answer is unreservedly yes, absolutely, I couldn’t have asked for more.  While my family and friends have been brilliant, I thought that I’d focus on the support I’ve received from the University and beyond.  I hope this doesn’t read like an Oscar-acceptance speech, but I think it’s important to give credit where it’s due and reassure potential PhD students that they will not be alone.

The School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies has been a brilliant environment in which to undertake postgraduate research, largely due to a group of motivated, knowledgeable and enthusiastic supervisors. The School has a robust scheme for supervisory support, which encourages regular meetings, documenting the meetings and six monthly reviews.  Within the School are different research groups and regular seminars with external speakers, ensuring that there are links to the wider clinical and academic worlds.  The research administrators and IT staff also ensure that we are well supported.  We’ve also established a great post-grad research student community, aided party by our lovely communal office and encouragement from our Director of Postgraduate Research.  We are a varied group in terms of nursing discipline, clinical/academic experience, research interests and stage of study, age and location, but our different experiences make the support we can offer each other stronger.

All PhD students at Cardiff University are able to make full use of the University Graduate College’s research training programme, which offers a wide range of courses, workshops and conferences, from the use of social media, to statistics and maximise your memory.  We are in an enviable position in Cardiff as not all universities offer such a programme and I’ve made full use of these courses.  These sessions also encourage networking with students from other academic schools, and sometimes other local universities, and hearing the diverse range of subjects that students research is very refreshing.

I don’t have a Masters degree, which I’ve always felt very conscious of.  However, I did have the opportunity to undertake three MSc modules in the School of Social Sciences (qualitative methods, quantitative methods and philosophies of social science research), which were incredibly useful.  I also attended the Ethnography research group in this School, which is facilitated by internationally renowned ethnographers.  This was a brilliant experience and I learned a lot about using this methodology from the group.

I received funding from the Research Capacity Building Collaboration and part of this scheme is research training every other month at one of the six collaborating universities in Wales.  The training we’ve received includes the use of different methodologies, leadership, engaging with the media and the Viva, as well as invaluable peer support. The group includes nurses, midwives, dieticians, physiotherapists and podiatrists, and we learn a lot from each others’ experience.

The University Health Board where I undertook the research also offered research training, which taught me a lot about different methodologies, research ethics and policy governing research.  The consultant who granted access to the patient population and nurses who supported me with recruitment and staying safe during data collection made the project possible.

I hope that I’ve demonstrated that the PhD does not have to be lonely, isolated process.  When I’ve needed support I have found it and also made many new friends in different disciplines.  It’s been a fantastic roller-coaster journey, but one that I have not had to do alone.

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