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Identity Crisis

Emerging into sunlight!

Emerging into sunlight!

After months spent as a virtual recluse battling against all manner of hurdles to complete my thesis it felt like a real treat to emerge out into the winter sunshine yesterday and wandered up to Warwick Medical School.   This was just a flying visit, to put last minute touches to some future plans, and now I am back in my regular haunt on main campus.   However, all being well I hope to be spending much more time “up there” in the future…

It was as I was wandering back down the hill that my thoughts turned back to a conversation I had a little while ago, on the topic of “identity”.  The common question of “What do you do?” often being an early probe in conversations, currently provides my first dilemma. I am no longer a student, having ceased to be registered with the University at the end of 2013.  However, my daily activities seem to have changed little, except that instead of writing my thesis I am now translating my work into journal papers, blog articles and future research proposals. But I am not a student.  Yet neither am I a Post-Doc, for I have to wait to have my viva before such exciting developments can occur. So prompts the question: “What am I?”

Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis

The answer to this question is further complicated from my seeming inability (reluctance?) to define myself under a traditional “discipline”.  In academia, as in life, one is often identified by a series of labels. People are “Historians”, “Mathematicians”, “Philosophers” and “Economists”.  Recently I was asked “What are you?” to which I explained that I saw myself as a researcher within Infection Prevention.

Apparently this was not the accepted approach…

I needed to “be” something. I explained I had a Psychology degree, but I refute that I am a “Psychologist”, although according to some definitions perhaps I am…  I have a business MA, but I do not see myself as exclusively in this field either.  Having spent a number of years in manufacturing I could define myself as an “Analyst”, but that isn’t solely what I do.  Finally, all being well, I will soon have a doctorate in “Engineering”.  But, looking at what I do, and where I see myself going, I don’t feel that the identity “Engineer” quite covers it either….

So, what am I?  And further, does it matter?  Answers on a postcard* please… Be kind.

Postcard

*Tweets, comments, owls and smoke signals also accepted.

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ips 2013So I am back ready to work on my thesis today, but I have to admit that half my screen in taken up with Twitter feed…. Usually I am much more disciplined, trying to ensure that I “schedule” Twitter sessions in to my day – but I am making allowances for today/tomorrow so I can keep up with the exciting proceedings still going on at Infection Prevention 2013 (#IP2013).

Impressions of #IP2013

I was, again, overwhelmed by the amazing blend of scale and intimacy of this event, which first struck me last year in Liverpool.  At #IP2012 I was experiencing everything for the first time, including the whole concept of a “full conference”.  My only previous conference experience was the HPA conference, which was held at my own research institution (University of Warwick), therefore had not given me the same immersion opportunity as #IP2012.  So I wasn’t sure how this year’s event would feel – would it have lost some of its charm? Also, this year I had been accepted for oral presentation, giving me another new experience, but also an additional layer of nerves…

Happily #IP2013 more than fulfilled my expectations – from the moment I arrived I found I was rapidly taking notes, excitedly making links to my own work and seeing parallels I could draw between other people’s experiences and my future plans.

ConferenceI love that about conference. The sudden immersion into an environment where everyone shares a common sense of purpose, can understand experiences, and can debate ideas.  As I have – from an academic point of view – been working alone for the past four years, such opportunities are very welcome. 

It was also hugely exciting and a source of great pride to see how many of the key concepts highlighted by the experts in the morning session (more of which later) were reflected in work already been carried out by my IPC heroes.  They really are superstars, and it’s wonderful to know they’re getting to share some of that work at #IP2013 too.

Personal Highlights

As well as sharing my work on Study 3, which explored behavioural drivers to hand hygiene, I also had the opportunity to meet and hear from some leading experts in Infection Prevention.  Here are just a few highlights…

Professor Dale Fisher – offered really useful information about experience in successfully achieving organisational “buy-in”.  Very closely linked to my work and subsequent thoughts on “Meaningful Data”, and thought it was particularly useful to connect with the work of Human Factors (Ergonomics).  Definitely areas to follow up…

Dr Michael Gardam – presented the concept of Front Line Ownership (FLO) as part of a complexity science approach, with the message that solutions to problems may be very context specific. What works for one unit/team/setting may not work for another…  I’m interested in linking this to “Domain Knowledge”, which is a key theme throughout my thesis, so really pleased to see that evidence of successful practice using the FLO approach.

Professor Hugo Sax – provided a clear, logical background for why hand hygiene is vital, with particular emphasis on the role of endogenous infection, something I have discussed, but would like to look at in more depth.  I was particularly interested in the human factors approach, and thought the examples of innovations where error had seemingly been “designed in” through a failure to realise what was intuitive, were very persuasive.  Within hand hygiene I agree that understanding what is intuitive and what requires explicit learning would be of great benefit when designing interventions.

Martin Kiernan – delivering the EM Cottrell Lecture was a clear highlight, not just for me but for the audience as a whole.  Entertaining yet highly informative, “The life and times of the urinary catheter” was a talk spanning 2,000 years, examining (scant!) evidence, demanding action and research, and ending with a self-penned poem.  I don’t think you can ask any more of a speaker can you…except maybe a dance?  Roll on #IP2014…

Finally I also got to meet Pat Cattini and Jon Otter, both of whom made my day possible, and also helped ease my presentation nerves by being wonderfully welcoming, supportive and friendly.  I’m not sure I could have made it to the podium without their reassuring presence in the front row, and it was a fantastic example of the inclusive environment I appreciate from IPS.  Needless to say Jon then gave a flawless and superb talk on targeted MRSA screening – a presentation master class thrown in for free!  I also found out that Pat has an MSc which explored hand hygiene auditing, that she’s familiar with the key papers I’ve based Study 3 on, and that she’s involved in hand hygiene technology trials. In other words, she is my new superhero.

Now, back to the thesis………..the first step on my journey into Infection Prevention!

writing

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whirlwindThe last week has been a complete whirlwind, culminating in an early start tomorrow so I can share my work on Inherent and Elective hand hygiene (Study 3).

Having had my abstract for Infection Prevention 2013 accepted back in July, my planned funding was then delayed which meant I was left with no choice but to sadly pull out of the programme with only a few weeks to go. This was such a disappointment, as I had been really looking forward to Infection Prevention, having got so much out of the conference in Liverpool last year.  However, due to some amazing help from IPS (especially Claire Kilpatrick, Jon Otter and Pat Cattini) within hours of letting them know the news last Monday, I was offered funding support meaning I can join the event tomorrow (30th September). 

Really looking forward to sharing my work, and giving experts in the field the opportunity to comment/get in touch with regard to my plans for future developments!! 

Also have a HUGE sense of excitement building about the chance to hear from Hugo Sax again tomorrow. I was totally blown away by hearing him speak at ICPIC2013, so I’m sure tomorrow’s session will be worth the anticipation.  The programme is bursting with other gems, and I’m particularly looking forward to the EM Cottrell Lecture, given by Martin Kiernan.  Based on previous experience I’m sure this will be entertaining as well as informative…

Will be tweeting as much as possible, but with only one day at the conference, a huge exhibition, lots of posters I want to see, public transport to master, not to mention some #PoshMuffinsonTour to track down, I can’t be sure how much will be done…  Expect a blog in the next few days to wrap up thoughts!

ips 2013

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The past few weeks since finishing data collection have been spent going back over my thesis outline, working out what can be “written up without delay”, what “needs more work”, and what I would ideally like to put in a big box called “never look at again”….

Image from dreamstime.com

Safety deposit box for Dissertation Issues….(Image from dreamstime.com)

Naturally it is that third category that contains rather a lot of the “meat” of the dissertation at the moment, and it takes a lot of self-discipline to ensure that each of the “issues” are logged, so that I can plan to tackle them as I write-up, even if it is not something I can do all at once.  Fortunately I have been able to call on some great sources of assistance so far to help me with each “issue” I have plucked from the box, and therefore I am hoping that over the next few months the balance of what can be “written up without delay and what I’d like to “never look at again” will swing…but one thing is for sure, the whole thesis “needs a lot more work”.

What I have found really useful though, is the use of copious “pictures” to help me translate both my ideas and actions into formats that are easier to communicate – I am now forever drawing process flow diagrams of some kind, showing how my thoughts are flowing, what actions I carried out, and why certain processes were carried out in particular orders.  Whilst these started out as being tools to help me avoid “head-pop“, I have now found that they may well be jolly useful to include in the finished written dissertation, to help the examiner avoid the same fate, and to save the legendary 1,000 words

Learning - Risky Times (Image from ninapaley.com)

Learning – Risky Times (Image from ninapaley.com)

The “head-pop” issue has actually been a serious one this past week, as I’ve succumbed to 2 migraines – which as previously noted are not the best news.  Having to cancel hard to arrange meetings is never a good thing, nor is the time lost to feeling like you’ve just run a marathon. And that’s an analogy I can just about work with these days – except with a migraine you miss out on the shiny medal and cake rewards.  Still, fingers crossed it has just been a blip, and happily I managed to proceed with a re-arranged meeting, during which I learnt some fascinating new information which will help underpin a major theme in my discussion section, and plans for future Post-Doc work.  Well worth the snowy walk up to Warwick Medical School!

I also had a fantastic discussion re: my plans for Post-Doc work, which has really helped clarify the direction I want my research to go in, as well as help motivate me to keep up the pressure to get a thesis draft produced sooner rather than later.  More details on this further down the line, suffice to say Hand Hygiene remains close to my heart!

Icing on the Cake - going literal...

Icing on the Cake – going literal…

Outside the thesis write-up the past few weeks have seen me once again having some great help and advice from Claire Kilpatrick who gave some really useful feedback and encouragement on my ICPIC abstract draft.  ICPIC promises to be an amazing event, with some of the leading experts in the Infection Prevention field coming together, and I am keeping everything crossed that I will be able to attend; being able to take contribute my research in some capacity would only be the icing on the cake.

 

 

And finally, exciting times tomorrow on the Hand Hygiene and Technology front….will post soon…..

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Very quick post, to happily announce that I have safely made it to Zagreb for the IFIC12 Conference, where I will be attending my Poster Why do you wash your hands? Does the solution to hand hygiene compliance lie in understanding different types of hand hygiene behaviour – inherent and elective?’  

If you are attending this years Congress please feel free to view my Poster throughout the event, and pop by and say hello during the attended session on Thursday lunchtime.

Attached to this post is a copy of the Poster from IPS2012, which I have finally got round to uploading.  I shall do the same with the IFIC12 one when I return to the UK. And have run a Marathon. But more on that later in the week….

IPS Poster: Exploring Human Behaviour and Technology in NHS Hand Hygiene Auditing    (or as I see it, a whistle-stop tour of my PhD to date….).

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