I cannot believe it was April the last time I blogged!
Here I am in Year 3 of my Doctorate of Professional Practice (DPP)! How did I get here already? The first two years, punctuated with four taught modules and four Masters level academic assessment passed, but I still feel like a novice in terms of my research apprenticeship. Maybe not quite a novice, am I being harsh on myself? In some areas, a competent researcher, not quite proficient and definitely not the expert I feel in my nursing or even nurse lecturing role (Petiprin 2016).The bottom line is, as a researcher I still feel like I have so much to learn. I am in the middle of Semester 1 of a new university year, juggling my day job as a lecturer in nursing and my part time doctorate student role.
That feeling of school being back has been long forgotten now, but my desire to spend time learning alongside the tension of inspiring the next generation of nurses is ever present! In reality I really enjoy the modules I teach this semester, Quality Nursing Care to Stage 1 and Clinical Skills to Stage 3. That can increase the self-imposed tension between teaching and studying. I have not been as strict with my 3 days a month my employer supports me to use for my studies, due to the “life cookies” I get from delivering teaching! I have spilt my DPP day with the delivery of basic life support for example, maybe because I do not get the same pleasure from sifting through literature systematically as I do teaching life skills! I need to try to remain firm when it is a DPP day, no teaching! Like every blog or book I read on completing a part time doctorate degree these tensions are par for the course. I guess now in year 3, I accept the pulls in different directions that come with being a part time doctorate student, it is simply a constant juggle.
What am I concentrating on just now? Well, preparation for refining my research proposal for ethical approval. This entails a re run of my literature review and a definite decision on the “how” of my research. What will my methodology be? I thought I had decided, but right now I am not so certain! This literature reviewing process is much more systematic now that I have completed my taught component of the doctorate and because of the guidance/support from a new addition to my supervision team.
My supervision team has changed twice since I started in 2014, lost one, gained two new supervisors and will change again in the next few months with my principal supervisor moving to pastures new! Is it me, I begin to wonder? Supervision is an unusual relationship to negotiate (Thesis whisperer 2016). At the moment, it feels like we have achieved a good balance of insightful questioning to make me think deeper, positive re-enforcement and constructive criticism. However, there can be tensions around preferred styles of working and competing priorities for both student and supervisor. At times, I have felt the need to re-negotiate our ways of working; with frank, honest discussions on my areas of strength and weakness as well as my supervisors (Thesis Whisper 2010). This has been challenging, but has led to better ways forward and definite insights into my self-awareness. I have felt quite strongly that this will be the only doctorate I ever complete, so I want the support from supervision to be what brings out the best and not the worst in me. This is so much more than a professional academic journey but a deeply personal one too!
Autumn leaves signifies the winds of change in the season and in my doctorate journey! Just when I feel we have got the best ways of working figured out there will be more changes. However, my principal supervisor will be here for a number of months yet. So we can continue to build on this “good way” of working together. I need to remind myself at times that the supervisor’s role is to lead me to success and that should not be easy at doctoral level. I hope when a new supervisor is added and a new principal appointed we can continue to work on the successes we have achieved so far.
I have lots to do in my literature review and at times find this a tedious, repetitive but very necessary task. So I need to block out discreet ½ days to sift through lists of articles and use the other ½ days to do more fulfilling studying, like actually reading and writing from the literature review; making decisions and truly being able to justify them from the evidence base. These decisions will be on my overall research question, aims, objectives and my methodology.
I am desperate to just get to the point of data collection! However, I realise all the thinking, reading, reflecting time will lead to a stronger proposal and research project. I have recently met with the newly appointed Chief Nurse for Acute Care where I hope to carry out my research. Her endorsement and enthusiasm energised me. Next steps are to meet with the Nurse Manager and Senior Charge Nurse in the proposed area of practice and then to organise an honoury contract for me.
My learning time is also immediately being put to good use in influencing person centred care learning in the under graduate programme within our school of nursing. This gives me an immense sense of dual purpose as a researcher and lecturer. This week was Person & Family Centred Care theme week in the 1st year module in Quality Nursing Care that I lead on. I indulged my students with my subject, hoping the use of my personal and professional enthusiasm will inspire their practice to be person and family centred. This included my personal reflection on my big brother, “our Jack’s” experience from diagnosis to demise, almost four years ago; with a mix of positive and negative “real examples”. I frame this alongside the current Person Centred evidence base and the need for the next generation to improve / evolve person centredness in practice. This resonates the intensity of the emotion involved in a doctorate.
Despite the dark days of autumn to winter and the dichotomy of work/study I am eager to get my literature review completed and a decision made on my definite methodology by the end of 2016. My aim is to refine my research proposal and get through the R& D, University and NHS Ethical approval process by spring, so that I can be in clinical practice preparing the area for data collection in late spring and summer. My supervision team have shared possible funding opportunities I could apply for to buy some time out of my day job, in particular for the data collection phase of the study. I will need to fit looking into this alongside my mix of work and will most likely need supervisory support, as a true novice in applying for research funding. I feel certain they will be more than willing to support me!
I really look forward to simultaneously building new relationships with personnel in my proposed area of research and data collecting with older people, their families and staff. This will remind me of the “realness” of this research process, it is not just a theoretical academic process, but one that will endeavour to touch real older people in acute care, their families and the staff who care for them. This feels good!
I am aware that as I go onto this next stage there will be ongoing evolving change around me and affecting me. I am hopeful that my drive and the work to date completed can be built upon and come the next seasonal change I will be another few steps closer to a Doctorate in Professional Practice.
PETIPRIN,A. 2016. From Novice to Expert- Nursing Theory. Available from:
http://nursing-theory.org/theories-and-models/from-novice-to-expert.php last accessed November 12th 2016.
THESIS WHISPERER. 2016. The tyranny of the awesome supervisor. Available from :
last accessed 12th November 2016
THESIS WHISPERER. 2010. It’s time to talk. Available from : https://thesiswhisperer.com/2010/07/15/the-its-time-talk/ last accessed 12th November 2016