Every PhD journey is unique. It will be as good as you want to make it and each obstacle you face is a great learning opportunity. Seize that opportunity and treasure it because you will emerge from that event a stronger and wiser person.
As I enter into my second year of the journey, I realise the joy of learning new skills and knowledge easily outweighs the occasional stress and I am enjoying every minute.
Currently I’m busy recruiting stroke patients and healthy participants for my research. Most researchers will agree that the recruitment process is never easy. However if you are creative and think out of the box there are numerous ways of reaching your target audience.
Planning and hard work reaps rewards
In my case I planned way ahead even before getting ethics approval and tried to think of all possible resources and avenues for my recruitment drive. I conducted numerous internet searches to gather details of stroke clubs in and around Southampton. By the time I received ethics approval I was able to begin recruitment right away.
In addition to the paper posters and electronic advertisements within the University and on SUSSED, I have been going around the stroke clubs to recruit participants. Although it involved a tremendous amount of hard work I actually enjoyed the process.
Why was this? If I had simply been able to tap into a participant database I would not have had the chance to visit the various stroke clubs, learn about their programmes, or exciting activities which they run passionately for stroke survivors. It was certainly an eye-opener and valuable learning opportunity for me.
Using the right language
I learnt to present my research work in layperson’s language and make it simple for the non-specialist audience to comprehend. This is a vital skill to acquire. Some researchers use a lot of technical terms or science ‘jargon’ without considering the audience. In order to communicate and disseminate research findings effectively, I’ve learnt that we must tailor and pitch the talks at the appropriate level for the audience.
At the stroke clubs I used the opportunity to interact with stroke coordinators, survivors and their carers, to hear about their needs, struggles, dreams and hopes. I found this personal touch and genuine interest in their well-being meant a lot. I am always warmly invited to join them for tea and I enjoyed those special moments. I was even invited to join one group for an indoor carpet bowl! That was my first attempt at carpet bowl and I thoroughly enjoyed that.
Going out to various clubs and centres is also a great opportunity to meet people and network. Many kind souls have assisted me in making links with people outside their clubs to help me in my research. Those kind gestures are definitely beyond my expectations.
Opportunities from making contacts
I’ve made many excellent contacts and word about my research has spread. I never imagined having such a healthy recruitment rate since I started going out to the community. Within 33 days of receiving the ethics approval, I have recruited 26 healthy volunteers and 15 chronic stroke participants!! This is truly unexpected and I am extremely delighted!!
A huge bonus also landed on my lap…..one community nurse heard about my research and she has invited me to be a speaker at a regional stroke conference in 2014. I accepted the invitation gracefully, knowing that it will be a great platform to share, interact and learn from other healthcare professionals. Hence, these are examples of unexpected gains when you are willing to work hard and dare to venture out boldly to meet people.
A life-changing PhD
I wish to thank my wonderful supervisors, Professor Jane Burridge, Dr Ann-Marie Hughes and Dr Martin Warner for always being there for me at every step on this most amazing PhD journey. I would not have reached this point without their wisdom, constant support, patience, encouragement and guidance.
Overall my PhD has been life-changing for me. There are countless transferrable skills that I have acquired that will help me in my career and life. Every single step that you take is one that will lead you to the next. Just keeping going and never give up no matter how tough it is…
To me, this journey is not just about the piece of academic paper, but it is about the development of the self that will carry me through unexpected twists and turns in life. The MOST AMAZING and ENRICHING JOURNEY indeed!!!