Time spent doing nothing but thinking is time well spent.

So many people have said to me that the doctorate journey is all about thinking since I started, but until this month I don’t think I got it really. These were well qualified people, Doctors and Professors themselves. However, sometimes you are so busy doing, you lose focus on what it is you are doing and you have to a step back to re focus and…think! As my course of study is a taught Doctorate in Professional Practice I have 4 modules to pass in the 1st 2 years that all contribute to the end game. I am ¾ way through those 2 years, but only 2/5 years way through the actual doctorate, so early days really. I realise now, in reflection I have been too focussed on passing each module and not spent nearly enough time thinking about my bigger picture. Which is to gain deep insights into Person Centred Care.

I decided to take some time off over the festive season, but felt guilty, so still tweeted and watched out for Person Centred / PhD related information on social media. I did also have lots of fun, walk miles with my dog, eat & drink too much and sing loudly with my friends and family!

On return to work in January I found myself rejuvenated and in a much better work/life/study balanced place than I had been during September – December; which is traditionally always a busy time in academia. So, time to think. I spent time reading about Habermas (1981) and how this critical social theory had been applied in healthcare research to give a voice to people whose voice usually goes unheard. This just feels so right to me. From the literature I have reviewed very few studies actually simultaneously give a voice to patients, their families and the multi disciplinary team to explore what really matters, in depth. I really hope I get to do just that. This week, the Scottish Government (2016) announced what the people of Scotland are saying matters to them in relation to health. This is so interesting and tells a story where person centre care features clearly, but tells a superficial story, where I am seeking depth and true insights. I want to be able to see how person centred care feels from the patient, family and health care professional’s perspective, not simply a sentence or two to say it matters or tick a box to say it happened.

So to get these rich insights my plan is to use the constructivist qualitative approach of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), took me a while to be able to say this, let alone understand it! However, I think, now remember I am only 2/5 way through (!) I do understand that this is the best way for me, with my research question and philosophical stance. To explore the essence of anything a qualitative approach facilitates constructing deep rich new perspectives that aim to add to the body of knowledge. Smith, Flowers and Larkin(2009) tells us that IPA is not about discovering something new but exploring in more depth a phenomenon we already know a fair bit about. Person Centred Care is not new, but IPA is designed to methodically process data to gain new insights that can ultimately lead to new improved practices, because of those insights. I have spent time this month just reading IPA healthcare studies and yes, you guessed thinking!  In order start preparing to defend this methodology I have also started reading critics of IPA, as it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

So, on Thursday last week, I prepared my household for me going to Glasgow for the day on Friday 29th January, to attend the Scottish IPA monthly meeting in Glasgow Caledonian University. Got my husband to stay home to get kids to school, do the morning dog walk, friend to come let the dog out at lunch time, cooked last Thursday’s and Friday’s dinner! Up at 5.30am, for the 6.33am train from way up north, in Aberdeen. glasgow It is so exciting (NOT) being a Mum, Wife, Lecturer/ PhD Student! Got to meeting, 10 minutes early, only me and the facilitator there!  As it turned out Storm Gertrude had disrupted travel throughout Scotland; I thought, what a waste. Well how wrong could I be! Two and a half hours, expert advice from a fellow Prof Doc student, who is due to complete in March, who has used IPA to explore ageing from an older person’s perspective. She was so interesting, explained best questioning techniques, the exhaustive but so immersive and worthwhile process of transcribing. She gave examples away of transcribed data, moving through to emergent themes. She planted the seed of using diaries to get even richer insights. Most of all, she re –inspired me that the doctorate is really a worthwhile thing to do.

I came away, sat in a cafe overlooking a dreary grey Glasgow and thought about everything she had said. I re drew my plans/ Gannt chart, and thought more about the structure of a poster I am presenting in April. I re thought the research process I think I will follow. I thought about guidance for diaries, for the 1st time I envisaged and wrote down ideas for questions for my interviews. I did drink coffee and eat a scone too! I physically scribbled, instead of typing, which was somehow more cathartic! So a day that I thought would be a waste of time ended up being super productive, lots to share with my supervisors! I realised, this journey is a long and winding road, not just completion of modules then doing of a piece research. To navigate through a 5-year journey involves just as much thinking as doing, it would seem.


Habermas, J. (1981). The theory of communicative action – volume 1: Reason and the rationalization of society. Boston, MA, USA.: Beacon Press.  IN Bevan, A. L. (2013). Creating communicative spaces in an action research study. Nurse Researcher, 21(2), 14 – 17.

Smith, J.A., Flowers, P. and Larkin, M. (2009) Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, Theory, Method and Research, London: Sage.

The Scottish Government (2015) Creating a Healthier Scotland, What matters to you? [online]available at: http://healthier.scot/ last accessed 30th January 2016.


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