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Research

University Graduate College: Enhancing the experience of Postgraduate Researchers

Success for PhD students at the School Healthcare Sciences

3 January 2014

Two PhD students from the School of Healthcare Sciences have secured lectureships within the School; an impressive achievement. Catherine Dunn and Dominic Roche, both of whom secured places before the completion of their PhDs, are excited about the opportunity to continue in the School - as lecturers.

PG HCARE PhD Cath "I was pleasantly surprised at how much support was available."
Catherine Dunn

Catherine trained as a nurse directly after completing her A-Levels and went on to work in cardiothoracic surgery, then cardiology. She did her Master’s degree at the Imperial College, London and returned to Cardiff in 2005 to work in cardiology. She came to Cardiff School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies (now the School of Healthcare Sciences) to do the Independent Prescribing course (after which she ran a nurse-led Rapid Access Pain Clinic at the University Hospital of Wales until 2009) and then again to teach as an Associate Lecturer. She secured funding for her PhD in 2009. She still does some clinical work alongside her teaching and research.

Catherine began teaching earlier this year and is in the process of completing her PhD, titled ‘An exploration of barriers to the disclosure of erectile dysfunction as an early warning of coronary heart disease’. The project is a qualitative study, utilising semi-structured interviews and questionnaires to explore patients and healthcare professional's experiences and understandings of disclosing erectile dysfunction.

Cathrine says of her studies, "Returning to full time study was initially a bit daunting, I had not studied full time since my initial nurse training 11 years previously. Since qualifying I had undertaken part time study within the School of Nursing and Midwifery, so I knew it would be a supportive environment; even so, I was pleasantly surprised at how much support was available.

"During my years of study I gained in confidence and I found that this correlated with my increasing rate of applications for various scholarships and bursaries! I was accepted as a student onto the European Academy of Nursing Science summer school programme, I was awarded funding to attend the British Sociological Association Medical Sociology conference and their early researcher event and I was one of three people awarded a grant to attended the European Council of Cardiovascular Nursing conference in Copenhagen.

"All of these experiences have helped me to develop both personally and professionally and none of which would have been possible without the help and support that I received during my PhD studies from members of the staff and fellow students within the school, now the School of Healthcare Sciences.

Catherine applied for a lectureship last January and was appointed in March. As she had not yet completed her PhD, the Dean suggested she start in August, having written up her thesis. "They were very supportive and I’m now teaching on a mixture of postgraduate degrees and pre-registration undergraduate courses."

PG HCARE PhD Dom "What first struck me was the incredibly warm, friendly and supportive postgraduate community that I joined."Dominic Roche

Dominic left a career in project management to retrain as a nurse in 2005 in Swansea, qualifying in 2008 and continuing to do a Master’s degree in Public Health alongside clinical work. He received a PhD studentship from the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (NISCHR) and came to Cardiff University when his PhD supervisor Dr Aled Jones took a post at the School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies in 2011.

"I came to Cardiff University six months into my PhD and what first struck me was the incredibly warm, friendly and supportive postgraduate community that I joined in the School of Healthcare Sciences. There is a diverse mix of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and they all welcomed me with open arms. I can confidently say I have made some friends for life!

"The facilities are excellent including a designated personal work space for every student with good IT facilities (and a shout out for the great IT support provided in Eastgate House). The School has rigorous PhD review processes in place to ensure every student gets the level of support they need to allow them to flourish and be successful in their research. The standard of academic supervision I have received has been second to none and I know other students have had a similar positive experience. The informal support offered on a daily basis from academic staff and other post-graduate students has been a great help too. The School also runs a variety of bespoke courses and seminars, often hosted by eminent academics and clinicians, including recently Professor Mary Dixon Woods and Professor Sue Bale OBE.

"The postgraduate facilities across the wider University are second to none, including a fantastic postgraduate space in the main hospital on Heath Campus, along with the newly-built state of the art Cochrane Building. The University Graduate College (UGC) has been a revelation for me – the variety and quality of courses and support on offer is quite something. The UGC runs a series of ‘Starting Out’ events for new PG students, which provides an innovative and entertaining welcome to the University. The University promotes an ethos of cross-disciplinary working, which is supported by the UGC in the form of multi-disciplinary, student led conferences throughout the academic year. Postgraduate students are encouraged to join the organising committees of these events to gain experience of event planning and to form enduring links between Schools and Colleges throughout the university. 

Initially Dominic will be putting 50% of his time into completing his PhD and 50% into teaching. Dom’s PhD title is ‘A realist evaluation of patient involvement in a safer surgery initiative’. It focuses on attempts to improve patient safety through promoting the involvement of patients in the planning and delivery of surgical care through an Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) programme.

Of the opportunities for part-time teaching alongside a PhD, Dominic said: "I have been increasing my involvement in teaching during my PhD, gaining additional experience alongside my research. There’s not an expectation that you get involved in teaching within the School, but it is encouraged and staff in the School have been very supportive."

Katie Featherstone, Director of Postgraduate Studies at the School, commented, "I am incredibly proud of Cath and Dom, they have both made a strong contribution to the research culture and teaching within the School during their PhD. They provide strong role models for our students, as early career academics developing a body of clinically relevant research that also informs their teaching. "

Postgraduate