Archive for August, 2012

My last post, just over two weeks ago, marked a low point in the research project – where a ‘Buckaroo Moment’ was dangerously close due to a myriad of issues cropping up in close succession.  Today marks my first day back after a well needed fortnight away from all things research, and thus I am happy to report the donkey has all four hooves firmly on terra firma this morning. So far, so good…

Whilst I may have been away from the active research for 2 weeks, it would be wrong to say that my thoughts have not turned to the project during this time.  However, both the geographical and time distance away from the work has allowed for a period of reflection, a time to stand still (literally…on rocks, on a beach, on a hill watching the sea….) and try to unpick some of the ‘knot’ that seems to have occurred within the work.  Prior to my holiday this knot felt very much like an impenetrable mass, with no discernible way past.  Now, with my mind and body rested I understand that, in the words of the Bear Hunt – if you can’t get round it, and you can’t get over it, then you just have to go through it. So that’s what I’m about to start doing….

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With reflection it is fair to say that after such a glorious weekend the days that followed were always likely to seem challenging, however by any stretch of the imagination I don’t think I could have envisaged just how difficult they were to become.  By Thursday afternoon the word ‘meltdown’ was being liberally spouted from my mouth…!  

In short, I have hit a problem with the Ph.D. project.  All research has moments like this, and when I use my logical brain I can easily sit and discuss how such issues offer advantages as well as challenges, and be thankful that the study has a purposely flexible design, to cope with such eventualities. It is just when I am tired, or when I reach what I feel is a saturation point of contingency planning, I feel sometimes I would just prefer things to be straight-forward. For once.  Please. 

 To put the issue into context, my project design involves running 3 separate studies in parallel, to enable maximum efficiency when working with limited resources, most notably the time of the Healthcare Professionals involved. Thus 1 interview provides data for up to 3 study aims, without the need for additional interview sessions with the same participant.  This has worked well, and has allowed Studies 1 and 2 to progress at planned speed throughout June and July.  However, Study 3 has a segment which is reliant on findings from the interview phase, to allow for data analysis during September, and it is here that the ‘problem/challenge/crisis/meltdown’ has occurred.  The findings from the interviews has proven to be much more complex (a positive on one side) when analysed than previously thought, which prohibits the required data analysis in the form first planned.  

This dawning realisation, checked, re-checked and worked-through-on-the-white-board-and-triple-checked led to a last-minute cancellation of an interview (which I hated doing), and a brainstorming session with a very lovely fellow researcher, and we have now carved out a future plan….  Despair to excitement in the space on one afternoon, 4 colours of white-board marker, 6 cups of tea, and a walk along a canal to feed the ducks. 

I am now off for a break for a couple of weeks – very much needed – and am feeling a lot more confident about moving forwards when I come back.  I need to get back to my host NHS site, talk over the new plans with my key support links there, and with the best of luck things will be able to go ahead as I hope.  If not, I fear we may really see the donkey flip…………

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  Some weekends are just golden, and it has to be said the one just passed can definitely be classed as such an example.  After a rather difficult few days with work, with research hitches seeming to come from all sides, expected and unexpected, it was wonderful to wrap Friday up on a positive – including a great email conversation with a dedicated Infection Control champion – and then delve into a weekend of indulgence.  And cake.  Amazing cake.

I managed to talk about my work and gradually developing future plans with a dear friend on Friday evening, and this helped me clarify in my own head many of the ‘need to do’ stepping stones that make up my chosen path.  Sometimes it really helps to talk to someone outside the bubble of academia, because they ask the questions you forget to ask yourself.

Saturday and Sunday were all about relaxing and recharging, and I was very fortunate to find the best of the sunshine to enjoy the beautiful grounds at Burghley, indulge in lunch at the Orangery, then join the rest of the country (so it seemed!) in watching the Olympic triumphs in the evening.  It is wonderful to see how the country can embrace hard work, dedication and team work – and how humble all the athletes are when interviewed, continually thanking other people. After a week of seeming like I have constantly needed other people’s support in my own work, it has been good to see that even these high achievers have a support network they continue to turn to.

Oh, and on Sunday I had a birthday.  Did I mention there was cake?

My main objective this week is to complete my transcriptions, and by the end of the week have Phase 2 fully mapped out for the end of August and September.  This will require me calling again on those around me who have continued to support me throughout this process, but I feel that together we can keep the project moving forwards, and the more I listen to the interviews already collected, the more I am motivated to ensure we take this work somewhere….

For your chance to be involved in Phase 2 – click here

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A change of scenery yesterday – spent some time with my young “research consultant” (5yrs) – who accompanied me to campus for a very early University taster session…  We had a great time, including an interesting peak inside the IDL, a wander around the beautiful campus (feeding ducks and dodging showers!) , and watched some of the Olympics on the big screen currently up in the Piazza.   Oh, and there was cake…naturally!

It was an enjoyable time, and a vital break from some heavy weeks of both active research and data analysis – and has given me a much needed ‘fresh’ feel with which to approach today.  Next week I have a promising meeting set up at my NHS host site, and an interview with a great Healthcare Professional about the Audit Process; looking forward to the information both these very different opportunities may bring.

Our website is now open for comments and discussions, and those at UHCW are welcome to join – please email me, or click here, for more details.

Next week I will be updating about the plans for future research – currently things are looking rather intriguing….

Enjoy the Olympics!

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