OTalk

#OTalk Research 1st December 2020 – Taking the first steps into research

Welcome to this week’s #OTalk Research. I am Jeni Woods (@Jeni_Woods_OT) and I work as a Specialist Haematology Oncology Occupational Therapist at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester and Chair of the RCOT Specialist Section for Major Health Conditions.

Research is a core component of occupational therapy’s practice and is outlined within the Health and Care Profession’s Council (2013) standards of proficiency for occupational therapists and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (2019) Career development framework.

This summer I completed a MSc in Advanced Occupational Therapy at the University of Salford. I have grown so much from a leadership and research perspective over the course of the three years it took to complete the course. As I progressed throughout this course and undertook various local and national projects relating to improving patient care in oncology and palliative care – the need for occupational therapists to undertake and publish research has resonated deeply with me. Without the evidence to demonstrate the impact that occupational therapists can have on a person’s health, well-being and overall quality of life – how can we be expected to be included in national guidance, which often draws upon the evidence base available?

However, as I handed in my dissertation I thought that was enough studying for me. It had been a tough 18 months balancing the demands of raising a young family, my role at the Christie and my voluntary work with the specialist section. Furthermore, I’d experienced a number of deaths of family members, which had impacted my studies. But after six weeks of no studying, no reading and critically appraising journal articles, no musings over how to structure an argument with an essay and no going round in circles with seemingly never ending literature searches – I had some persistent thoughts. I missed studying and the way it challenged my thinking and enabled me to generate new ideas, which influenced my clinical practice. Moreover, undertaking the MSc had enabled me to develop my research skills and I wanted to be able to build upon these.

Various options are available which could facilitate achieving this goal, but for me, the decision has been made to pursue a PhD or Professional Doctorate option.

So here I am reaching out to the #OTalk research community for advice on how myself and others in a similar position can shape their early research career.

  1. What opportunities are you aware of, or have you experienced, which support occupational therapists to develop on their research career journey?
  2. What advice would you offer to anyone considering formal study, such as a PhD or professional doctorate, to further their research career?
  3. What are the challenges and rewards of undertaking a formal research qualification to develop your research career?
  4. What activities helped you to strengthen your CV as an early researcher?
  5. What did you find helpful when preparing a research proposal?
  6. Can you share any tips or advice to support others with their application to study at doctoral level?

References:
HCPC (2013) Standards of Proficiency – Occupational Therapists. Retrieved from: https://www.hcpc-uk.org/resources/standards/standards-of-proficiency-occupational-therapists/ RCOT (2019) The Career Development Framework: Guiding Principles for Occupational Therapy.
Retrieved from: https://www.rcot.co.uk/sites/default/files/CAREER_FRAMEWORK.pdf

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