Humanities & Social Sciences placements

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Topic: Psychology

Settling into the role (and Bristol)

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📥  Psychology

It's November! As of today, it has been exactly two months since I've started my placement. It is expected by now that I've got some idea of what my role within the team is. Safe to say, I think I've got a good sense of what a research assistant is all about. It is partly due to the number of times I've been asked: "So what do you do exactly?" when I told them what I'm doing on placement. I think I got tired of repeating "Oh, I assist someone with their research" that I started to really think about what my job is. So, here I am, attempting to coherently explain what I actually do as a research assistant.

First of all, the project that I am part of is looking at physical activity as a culture, in a primary school context. It is applying social practice theory and seeing how physical activity as a practice (day-to-day routine, in simple terms) can help shape/change children's behaviour and ultimately, their physical and mental well-being. It is more of a sociological take on physical activity and children. Now, as a psychology undergraduate, you might think that this really doesn't apply any psychology-related theories. Well, *puts one hand on the hip and points knowingly with another*, part of the project is looking at body image and children; specifically, positive body image. So, I've been given the task of reading through previous literature related to (positive) body image, children and physical activity. As it is a relatively new construct, I'm currently reading different strands in the body image research and also looking at just physical activity and children. I feel like I'm playing connect-the-dots with the journal articles and hopefully be able to end up with a whole picture. It is definitely a challenge; excited to see where it goes!

In short, my role as a research assistant on this placement is to be in a way, a body image 'expert', i.e. knowing what the literature has found and what is missing from it. I feel like I've given a tool to plough through a fresh piece of land. So that's my job, as for now. Oh, I also get to process fresh data which is always fun. I'm sort of a fan of SPSS, or stats in general because I like numbers. My mum used to say that I should've taken a Maths degree but after struggling with (read: failing) Advanced Maths (I) in high school, I know I'm better off relying on software programmes to do the calculation and I stick to the interpretation of the results. Also, this project will get me involved with a lot of qualitative data, which means learning how to use NVivo, which was fun. Always good to learn new things.

So that's all on the work side of things. I think I'm finally finding my feet here in Bristol. I've stopped being scared of the city and have made it a point to embrace what Bristol has to offer, which is a lot! Secret bars, screenings of Blue Planet II, interesting restaurants and stunning views like this:

Clifton suspension bridge at night.

This stunning piece of architecture was taken last night when my friend, Camilla and I went to the Clifton Observatory to see the fireworks. Unfortunately, my phone camera wasn't good enough to capture the fireworks on display so might have to leave that to the imagination. We also stopped by the Cori Tap before to try their famous Exhibition cider, which only comes in half pint glasses because it is too strong (8.5% alcohol content!). It was a good drink to sip when enjoying the pyrotechnics in 4°C.

The Coronation Tap in Clifton.

Doing more exploring soon! A perk of being on placement, we get weekends off, which gives me the flexibility to see and do more things.

 

Thanks for reading!

Liza x

 

Roller-coaster Start

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📥  Psychology

Hello everyone!

Just thought I'd kick things off with an introduction about myself and what my placement is all about.

I'm Liza, a psychology undergraduate and I'm from Malaysia. I came to the UK to further my studies in 2014 and worked very hard to secure my spot in this university. The placement degree caught my attention because I thought a year working in the field would help me get a good idea of what career I'd want to have. In addition, it is a good break from all the studies.

So here I am. I'm currently a research intern/assistant at the Bristol Business School in University of West England (UWE). My placement supervisor is Dr. Fiona Spotswood and we're currently working on a project to understand how physical activity affects body image in primary-aged children. It is still in the early stages of research so there's plenty of exciting things to explore!

As I'm settling well in the new Business and Law school on the Frenchay campus (just like 10W!), I struggled a little bit with adjusting to the busy city life in Bristol. I've decided to live in the city center because I'd figured it'll be easier for me to explore this vibrant place. It caught me off guard at how overwhelmed I was with all the hustle and bustle of Bristol. Despite being 20km away from Bath, it is a very stark contrast between these two cities. For the first few weeks, I felt a little bit lost. It was hard getting used to seeing the city still very much alive after 11pm. As I grew up in a fairly small town back in Malaysia, having lived in Bath for the past two years, Bristol is my first big city that I've actually lived in. I guess the shock was natural.

Some graffiti work around Bristol.

I am beyond thankful to have made a group of friends here who are mostly from Malaysia. They've welcomed me into their squad and made me feel at home. I think I can finally say that I'm slowly getting used to the pace here in Bristol thanks to them.

New friends in Bristol with a famous Malaysian dish, Nasi Kerabu.

I'm excited to share my journey here with you and thank you for reading my blog!

Here's to more,

Liza.

 

Why is a psychologist working with trains?

📥  Psychology

Writing a blog has never been something which particularly appealed to me as I didn’t quite see the point. However, now, over two months into my Industrial Placement the point has become a little more clear to me – it is the perfect platform to document my experiences and what I have learnt from them. And so that is why I have decided to write a blog for the next year. I will talk about the challenges and successes experienced on my placement and reflect on what I have been doing as a tool to not only monitor my own development, but also for use by others having similar experiences.

Introductions

I suppose a good place to start is introductions. My name is Harvey and I am a third-year psychology student at the University of Bath. Although I have an interest in a wide range of psychological topics, my main area of interest is Occupational psychology, sometimes alternatively known as Industrial Psychology. For those who don’t know, this involves applying psychological research and theory to the realms of work. When it came to looking for a placement this was the area I was looking in.

Getting a placement

The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) offer a placement within their Human Factors (HF) team. Now you may be thinking to yourself, what on earth do trains have to do with psychology? And quickly coming up with the answer, not very much. But don’t let first impressions deceive you. Not really understanding what HF was I was intrigued to learn a little more and so opened the placement advert. After some initial confusion and a little research (and I really don’t mean very much), it became apparent that HF was closely knit to Occupational Psychology, and that often Occupational Psychologists make up HF teams. HF is the study of how people interact physically and psychologically with their environment or items within that environment. In its entirety HF immediately appealed to me and was something I was desperate to find out more about. Fast forward nine months and I am sitting here as an HF Research Assistant writing this blog, taking part in just that learning.

This seems like a good time to give my first tip:

  1. Don’t limit your placement choices. It can be very easy to become set on what you want to do during your placement year. However, a vast majority of the placements offered are to a very high standard and so if you come across something which sparks your interest, just go for it! When again will you get the opportunity to test run a job for year?

On reflection, I was definitely that person who had gone into the placement process knowing exactly what I wanted. If I judged where I am now against those feelings I would not be very happy. But my intrigue allowed me to break the mould I was set in: and for the better. I am now in a job which I love despite being something I knew little about before. Being closed minded will reduce the number of opportunities open to you, and so it is important to give everything a chance.

My Role

This is all very well, but what exactly is my placement? As I have said above, I am working as a HF Research Assistant at RSSB. I sit within the HF team, a group of people made up of occupational psychologists and ergonomists. In my day-to-day job I provide (pretty much as the job title suggests) research assistance for projects currently being conducted in the department. As a snapshot this has so far included the following:

  • User experience testing on a new app developed by RSSB to house all of the standards they produce (it is actually called the Rulebook app, but without getting all nerdy about trains it is easier to think of it as the above description).
  • Conducting workshops with train passengers and rail dispatch staff about their understanding of platform safety markings. And yes, by that I do mean the yellow line. This has been a really interesting project and provided me with great research experience.
  • Working to classify HF present in SPADs (a railway incident where a train goes past a stop signal – similar to a car driving through a red traffic light).
  • Writing a conference report for a conference run by the RSSB HF team in November.

Although minimal detail, hopefully it is clear that my role is incredibly varied and has given me the opportunity to get involved in lots of different projects which have tapped into lots of different content and skills learnt at university. In a later blog I will go into some more detail about some of these projects and what I have learnt from them. In my next blog however, I will be discussing the ‘Big Move’ – that is my move from a small seaside town in Devon to London!

 

The winners of the 2016-17 blogging competition announced!

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📥  2016-17, Communication, Health, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Psychology

As our placement students are gradually returning back to Bath for their final year, it is time to announce the winners of our annual blogging competition!

The Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences thanks all students who dedicated their time to write so many fascinating and adventurous blog posts throughout the year they spent on placements both in the UK and all over the world. Their stories are a true testimonial of how challenging, rewarding and life-changing a year on placement can be. As a recognition of our bloggers´ commitment to report on their placement expecience, the Faculty has awarded following students a number on departmental prizes, and an overall Faculty Prize.

The Faculty Prize of £100 as well as the prize for the Best Health Department blog of £150 goes to Emily Fallon (Sport & Exercise Science) for her captivating and exciting blog posts from the South Australian Sports Institute (SASI). She spent her placement year supporting Australian Olympic athletes and discovering new talents in Adelaide.

Photo of blue sky and placement student

Emily and the kind of view you only get on a placement in Australia with SASI.

Charlotte Harris (Psychology) receives the departmental prize of £100 for her dedicated work as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist with the Lifetime Service (and a Cyclist of the Year) in Bath.

The Department of PoLIS awards Zoe Amador Martinez (French and ab ignition Italian) a prize of £100 for sharing her experience from her teaching placement in Fécamp, France as well as giving her fellow students authentic report from her Erasmus+ experience in Siena, Italy.

Group of students with Erasmus+ flag

Zoe and her friends on the Erasmus+ programme during their year abroad.

The next awardee of the PoLIS department is Katy Wallis (French and ab initio Italian). Katy spent one semester studying in Aix-en-Provence, France and the second in Naples, Italy. Katy also deserves a Blogger Dedication Award for posting every single day.

Natasha Jokic (Politics with Economics) spent her placement at NBCUniversal International as a New Media Research Intern. She met Jamie Dornan on the red carpet AND also receives the PoLIS departmental prize. Where do you go from there?

London Pride bus

Natasha and her NBCUniversal colleagues taking part London Pride.

Last but not least, Maighna Nanu (Spanish and Politics) also receives the PoLIS departmental prize for her adventurous and colourful blog from Guadalajara, Mexico. If you want to know how to get on a university-organised trip involving testing tequila, then read her posts.

Congratulations to all winners and thank you to all bloggers for their authentic and valuable insight provided to our first and second year students preparing for their placements. Soon, we will be also getting new and exciting reports from our current third year students. Do sign up if you're embarking on your placement year!

Written by Julie Fulepova, placement student and Marketing & Events Assistant within the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

 

End of a Lifetime

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📥  2016-17, Psychology, Uncategorized

Two weeks ago I finished my placement as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist with the Lifetime Service in Bath. After a tearful farewell to my colleagues with some amazing flowers for me as a thank you for all the work I have done, I have now started my summer job as a Personal Care Assistant for a PhD student with physical disabilities and have taken up some voluntary work as a Research Assistant at the University of Bath.

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As cliche as it sounds, I learnt so much whilst on placement and it was an amazing experience, even if it wasn't quite what I expected. I really enjoyed my placement and would recommend placement year and summer placements to everyone.

As this is my last placement blog I thought I would leave you with my top 7 tips for placement and beyond:

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1. Buy a Diary or Planner

When I first started my placement I recorded all of my meetings and events on my iPhone calendar, a perfect way to keep track of things as a student but not so much in the work place. Although electronic calendars are really useful, especially when you always have your laptop open and loaded, accessing them on placement when this isn't the case can not only be be slow but it can also come across as rude or unprofessional.

So buy an academic diary or planner for your placement year, you can get some really cheap ones on Amazon or some funky ones from Paperchase if you are going for a more upmarket look. Academic ones last for the university year, so you won't have to worry about buying a new one in January. I've found having a diary to be so handy that I have ordered one for next year too!

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2. Keep Asking

During your first few weeks at a new placement or job you may feel really confused and unsure. Don't worry! This is perfectly normal and employers expect you to ask a lot of questions during the first few weeks (and even after that). Once you know what you are doing you will have less questions and learn the best times to ask them, so no-one will get annoyed. You can only learn and get better at your new role if you ask!

Try to schedule times to talk to help answer your questions instead of just popping into their office every time you have a question as your supervisor and colleagues are likely to be quite busy. Even though they are happy to help it can be a bit difficult if they are answering a new question every few minutes after your first few weeks. I met with my supervisor once a week and then for the odd five minutes throughout the week to answer any questions about tasks I had been given and only spoke to her or other colleagues when I really couldn't do any other tasks without knowing the answer.

Help and support signpost

3. Supervision

One of the greatest resources whilst on placement is your placement supervisor. In your first and second years at university you may have turned to Personal Tutors, Peer Mentors or Lecturers for support. On placement you will still have access to these people and your department's Placement Officer but they will not be able to help you anywhere near as much as your supervisor at your placement. Try to meet with you supervisor at least once a fortnight to discuss any concerns you may have or even just to talk about tasks you have been set or need to be set. Before you go to your supervision make a list of all the things you would like to ask and of the tasks you have completed that week, this way you will be able to lead the supervision and will appear professional and organised. For me, supervision was where I picked up all of my tasks, discussed my development and asked about attending training or other opportunities.

Don't be afraid to say to your supervisor if you do not have enough work or are struggling with the workload or if you want something else from the placement! I was really nervous about saying to my supervisor that I found the workload to be too small and when I wanted to see if I could attend some home visits, when I needn't have worried. My supervisor was really nice and tried to meet everything that I asked for. Your supervisor wants to make sure you get as much out of your placement as possible, so unless you let them know that you would like something to change they will never know!

Supervision is also the time to start asking questions about your dissertation, such as 'Can I complete my dissertation here? If so, what kind of data could I have access to? Do you have any ideas?' It is best to find out as soon as you can if you can collect data for your dissertation whilst at your placement. Placement is an ideal place and time to collect information as most students are less busy, as work does not follow them home and so evenings can be spent working on this. Some placements also offer you a day or two a week to work solely on your dissertation, use this time to plan and conduct literature searches for it. If collecting or using data at your placement is not possible, you should contact the person in charge of the dissertation unit or your dissertation supervisor (if you have been allocated one) as soon as you can to discuss an alternative approach. Don't leave it until your final year to let your supervisor know that you really have no idea what to do!

to do

4. Become a Professional List Maker!

A handy tip that you will read about on nearly every placement advice blog is to make a list. This easy little thing takes so much weight off your shoulders and really is a life-saver! I spent a lot of my time at the beginning of my placement waiting for tasks, when I would suddenly be given 10 different tasks to complete at once. This was overwhelming at first but I soon adapted to the lull and rise of workload and managed to plan my time so that the work was spread out.

Take a notebook you've dedicated to your placement with you where ever you go and write the tasks you need to complete on one page each week. This way you won't forget anything you are told and will always have something to write on. You never know when something might come up!

When you are given tasks ask when the person would like it completed by, this way you can then prioritise your tasks so that you can attend to more urgent ones first. Try to plan out when you would like to complete a certain task by if you are feeling super organised! This way you can adapt even the smallest of workloads so that you have something to do every day and make the largest of workloads seem manageable. When you are scheduling this, try to allow some time to look back at the task later in the week, you will be surprised how many times you may be asked to change things on a document. This isn't bad, this is really normal and every professional will experience it.

read

5. Read the Placement Handbook!

Once you have started your placement, as a Psychology Student at least, you are asked to confirm your initial placement details. Once you have done this you are sent what will be the equivalent of a placement holy book: The Placement Handbook. This is specialised to your cohort's placement year and will provide you with all that you need to know about the year's assignments and also provide some useful tips for placement, our Placements Officer often had so many questions directed to her that were answered in the handbook so please do read it.

But remember, this handbook will be sent to whatever address the university has you down as, so make sure that it is being to sent to your address whilst on placement.

For students where their department does not offer a specialised placement handbook, the university does provide a really useful general placement handbook that provides some tips for placement and also offers an induction checklist which is a great basis for your first supervision meeting. Departments offering a placement year should have them at their Undergraduate Office.

save

6. Save Everything

This probably goes without saying but save everything that you work on in a personal folder and another relevant folder if necessary (NOT TO THE COMPUTER) and DO NOT DELETE IT! After I had finally finished a task and several months had gone by I sometimes felt that it was safe to delete something, however I soon learnt that an old audit questionnaire can make a surprise reappearance months after it has been completed. So do not delete anything without backing it up somewhere else. Having all of your things saved in one place makes it really easy for your colleagues (and you) to find a task you have been working on, it also can help you to see what you have accomplished during your time on placement, making writing those placement reports that much easier.

On your last day at placement you may be asked to clear out your electronic folder, so transfer tasks you have been working on to relevant folders or email them to relevant staff. Send anything about your dissertation to yourself and have a good hunt for any literature searches you have completed whilst on placement, you never know how useful they will be.

mobile-experience

7. Experience, Experience, Experience

Placement year provides an amazing opportunity to really discover yourself and develop your professional and personal skills. But, relying on your placement to provide you with enough experience to apply for any job or placement opportunity is not a good strategy. If there is one thing that my experience on placement has taught me, it is that no experience seems to be enough. A pessimistic truth of the era where the number of graduates is increasing with not enough higher-level jobs to meet demand. Gain as much experience as you can whilst at university through volunteering and paid work, no matter how small the opportunity may seem to help you find a good job after university.

If you cannot see any jobs or volunteering opportunities being advertised contact the organisations you would like to work with, you never know what they might say! As a third year student I was not initially able to take part in the Research Apprenticeship Scheme run by the University of Bath's Psychology Department but after taking the initiative and contacting as many researchers at the university in my area of interest I soon found three projects to help on, each providing amazing opportunities in different areas of Clinical Psychology.

 

 

Good luck with your placement!

 

 

 

Moving on Placement

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

Earlier on in the academic year, the Lifetime Service went through a tendering process - where the companies managing the service change hands. This was quite disruptive and ended up in two members of the team remaining with the original company (Sirona) and the rest of the team changing to Virgin Care. Splitting the team in two along the lines of where their caseloads were based. On top of this, the change of hands meant that the Lifetime Service had to move out to a new location.

But, no one knew what was happening. Not even those higher up in the service and Sirona knew where we would be moving to or what this meant for the staff and their jobs. So as you can imagine, everyone was really stressed and confused. We only found out a month before the move where we were moving to, and the moving date was only announced two weeks before we were due to have everything packed up in boxes and shipped off to the new location. No easy task as the Lifetime Service has a lot of stores and medical supplies for the various young people they care for and activity groups they run - so much that they take up three storage rooms!

So, after many months of enjoying the commute to the Royal United Hospital and my placement, the Lifetime Service found out they had to move to St Martins Hospital in Odd Down. With only two weeks to make sure everything was labelled and ready to go, whilst also continuing to provide a safe and effective service.

With all these changes going on, it gave me a chance to experience a very different work situation that most people would never have expected to happen whilst on their placement. The service was quite disrupted and overwhelmed with the move, so my role changed quite a lot from assisting the Psychology Team to also helping the Nurses with their work. I was also involved a lot in the moving process of packing up boxes and labelling them for the new office.

In the two weeks before the move, I spent my time going through old files and uploading useful information to our shared computer files that would be coming with us when we moved. - Most things had not been looked at since 2004 so there was a LOT of weird and random stuff buried in folders and boxes across Lifetime that people had forgotten existed. A lot of things were thrown out just to save on space, what wasn't thrown was squished into boxes and sent to the new offices or to an old abandoned church for storage.

With all of this going on, my role as an Assistant Psychologist took a back seat and I was not able to have as much contact with my supervisor. This was OK as it was only short term, but I had to be more aware of thinking of jobs to do and not asking to be given work. This was a little difficult at times but there was so much to go through and sort out to help with the move that coming up with tasks to do was easy.

What you are probably thinking is 'How on earth do you cope with moving during placement?'

I've come up with some top tips to help with moving placement locations:

  1. Check out Transport - As soon as you know where you are moving to look into how you will get to your new location (can you get there with your current bus pass or do you need another one? Can I cycle there 0r walk? Could someone give me a lift? Do I need to move? -hopefully not for the last one). Having a few options to get to your new location can really help take away some of the stress of the move.
  2. Supervision - Meet with your supervisor before the move and ask for a list of what they would like you to do to help the move. Your supervisor may want your help packing up different stores and offices or they might prefer you to work from home for a few days whilst things are most chaotic.
  3. Get all the Knowledge - Try to find out as much about the move as early on as you can, knowing what is going on is a huge relief for you and those around you (When is the move happening? Where can you find boxes to pack up your things? How should you label up the boxes?).
  4. Finance - If you know the move is changing your commute time or route it might be useful to have a look at whether the move will make things more expensive for you. Knowing whether you have to spend more money or not will help you to plan a new budget or organise some extra hours for a job to help fund the change. Some companies may even reimburse you for travel if it is more expensive than before, so have a look to see if this is possible for you!
  5. Be Aware - my last tip is to try and be aware that staff members are likely to be stressed with the move and tensions may be running high. With everyone preparing for the move your role may be side-lined a little, so make sure you ask around for some jobs and expect to do things that you would never normally do as part of your role. If there are not many tasks going, try having a think about other things you could be doing, like your dissertation or coursework - I spent a lot of time calling up different hospices and services to see if their staff could take part in my dissertation research.

It can't have all been difficult. What was the best part of the move?

Definitely having Thai Food delivered to work for a last lunch as a service, with lots of free cakes and chocolates being brought in by different teams to wave goodbye to the different teams in Bath NHS House.

Finally, congratulations to the Lifetime Service. We made it!

 

 

 

Submitting Ethics

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

Hello all!

With March having just rolled in, signs of spring are everywhere. We have rain that never seems to end and rows of pretty daffodils covering just about every patch of soil and grass you can see.

bath uni daffodils

But, the beginning of spring marks the beginning of your official preparation for your dissertation. At the Psychology Placement Conference they suggested you should try to have your ethics submitted in March or April. Some people even had their ethics accepted before the Placement Conference! But DON'T WORRY if this isn't you, they were definitely in the minority. You should aim to try and start thinking about your dissertation before your Dissertation Topic Choice Form (late November) is due, having a general idea is really helpful when your department try to pair you up with a useful and relevant supervisor. I got my idea through a five minute brainstorm with colleagues when I was helping them with their research. It then developed by talking with my Placement Supervisor in our weekly supervision settings. Thinking ahead can help ease any anxiety of leaving things last minute - such as when your friends who didn't go on a placement are already talking about collecting data and ask you what you are planning.

Once you have your supervisor, try and book an appointment straight away. Most Dissertation Supervisors are really busy and so will not be able to see you if you drop in for a chat unannounced. Supervisors do have to put aside time on the day of the placements conference to see you, don't let this time go to waste! You have to be on campus anyway so put aside half an hour, it is a great way for you to start getting the dissertation ball rolling and to ask any questions you may have from the dissertation talks at the placement conference.

If you can, try to go into that meeting with a more concrete idea of what you would like to do and an idea of what literature exists in your research area. I found my meeting to be the perfect time to run through what I had planned and talk about some questions I had about the ethics form. We came up with some ideas for improvement, such as performing a power analysis to find out how many participants you need (this sounds scary but with help from MASH it was easy -they can even do online Skype support for placement students) and the possibility of doing a mixed methods study. You can find out more about maths and stats help at uni here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/study/mash/

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If you have a Dissertation Supervisor who isn't known for communicating well with students it might be a good idea to send them an outline of your ideas and how you want to test it before you meet, this way they are more likely to help you out as they will have already had a look at your idea and thought about what can be done to improve it. It also makes you look super organised and avoids any awkward silences where you might say 'ummm I have no idea how to test it, I just thought it was interesting' 'umm I hope it hasn't been done before as that would suck'. If this sounds like too much, go in with a brief list of what you want to talk about and with any questions you might have. This gives you something to work from as opposed to going in blind.

Anyway, I came away from my first dissertation meeting feeling a lot more positive than I thought I would feel because I had made that effort before hand. It is difficult but worth it.

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After finalising details of my study with my placement and dissertation supervisor, I started my ethics application in the second week of Feb. This wasn't too hard as I had already gone through most of the information with my supervisors. The hardest part is writing the short background section on why this is an important area to research - which is where looking at articles before your first dissertation meeting comes in handy. But the most fiddly part is designing your information, consent and debrief forms which take a lot of time and tweaking before they are ready to send off. It took me a good two weeks to get everything in a good enough state to submit. It was a frustrating process as the tiniest of details were changed - such as saying psychological wellbeing instead of just wellbeing.

Some tips for writing the debrief, information and consent sheets -look at other studies, like questionnaires online, what have they done? What have they covered? Should I provide helplines for people if my study is about wellbeing or a similar topic? You can then use those ones as a basic template for what you need to talk about. Different Universities can also provide a really easy checklist and examples of what to include in these -I used Nottingham University and The University of Kent.

The next key part of the Ethics form is getting your dissertation supervisor to sign it. Give them plenty of time to do this, especially if you haven't been keeping in touch with them. It is better that they have the time to read it thoroughly and give you feedback on what to improve then just send it back to you in a rush and you have your application rejected. Try and send it to them two weeks before the ethics deadline. If you change anything whilst you are waiting for a reply, send them the updated version of the application immediately!

My dissertation supervisor didn't give mine back until two days before the deadline, even though I had been talking to him about my ideas for a long time, had been keeping him informed of how my planning etc was going and had sent it two weeks before. So, your department are really not joking when they say you need those two weeks.

When it comes to actually submitting your forms, triple check you have attached all of the questionnaires, information sheets and anything else you may need. Make sure your ethics form is as detailed as possible. Most importantly, make sure you have signed two copies and have had your supervisor sign both too! Give yourself at least two hours (if you are submitting it in person) to find the submission box, check through, print and change things if needed. If you are not doing this in person then aim to send it to the appropriate member of staff the day before after checking it through, this gives the person who is printing off your form plenty of time to receive your email and print the form off. If you send it on the day, you might just end up waiting another month to submit as the staff member might be off sick or too busy to make time for the application- a huge pain if you are eager to start collecting data.

And finally, do not be put off if, after all this work, your ethics form comes back to you asking you to make changes before they can accept it. This is really common, my friend said she doesn't know one person who got theirs accepted straight away. If you make these changes quickly, you might not have to wait for the next ethics deadline either. So, please don't feel disheartened as it is completely normal to be asked to make changes with your first application. Don't forget, this is the first time you have ever filled out an ethics application!

Best of luck!

 

Return to Placement

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

After a much appreciated Christmas break, I am now back working  as an Assistant Psychologist for the Lifetime Service. For those of you reading this blog for the first time, the Lifetime Service is based in Bath and offers support to children who have a life-limiting or life-threatening condition and their families.

Going home for Christmas was so nice, especially after two months apart from my pets. My cat was so pleased to see me, she ran up to my room and meowed at me as soon as I arrived, as if to say 'Where have you been? How could you come all the way up here without saying hello to me?'. Who says cats are heartless?

What I enjoyed most of all though was having absolutely no work to do over Christmas for the first time in FIVE YEARS! That's right, after years of revising for GCSE's, A-Levels and University Exams or doing coursework, I finally had a chance to experience a stress free Christmas. You have no idea how much you will have missed this! So make the most of your Placement year, it really is a year like no other. It is a wonderful chance to have a bit of a break from the stresses that have consumed your life for the past few years, whilst still doing something worthwhile.

Now I am back at work, after the sleepy first week after new years day, things have picked up once more. I have been allocated my dissertation supervisor, which was great news as it meant I can really start thinking about one of the aims of a Psychology Placement, collecting data for your dissertation. Unfortunately, the supervisor was not the one I hoped for, however I hope they will still be useful for my topic! They have already agreed to meet me for a first meeting about the dissertation. But if things really do not go well, they will be retiring at the end of the year, giving me the opportunity to start anew with someone else.

I am now busy planning for my dissertation and having a brainstorm of ideas. At first, I really wanted to do something with the people that Lifetime works for, however trying to do research with patients is very difficult. There are so many precautions and rules for patient contact, especially in a service involving children who are not well, even in a service not tied to the NHS; this idea was quickly forgotten. In its place came a new area of research using an easier to reach population: Staff. I am now hoping to do my dissertation on staff wellbeing in a paediatric palliative care setting and how this may compare to other Health Care Staff who work with children. Surprisingly, despite there being a legal requirement for organisations to look after their staff and research showing that staff wellbeing directly impacts patient care, no one has really looked into what staff wellbeing is like (Hill, Dempster, Donnelly, & McCorry, 2016). Moreover, very little has been done with paediatric staff, despite many staff saying that working with ill children is harder than working with ill adults; especially when they are not likely to recover (Mukherjee, Beresford, Glaser, & Sloper, 2009). I am so excited for this new research topic, especially as so little has seemed to have been done in this area giving me lots of room to explore. The best moment was when Hill et al. (2016) said we need more research in this area doing this, giving me a great starting point to think of the aims of the research. So do not be put off if your first ideas for dissertation do not work out, you will most likely find something else even better!

Since the new year, I have also had the opportunity to have some patient contact. A Trainee Psychologist and I ran a stall at a diabetes transition event, teaching young people with diabetes about how stress can influence your diabetes and what they could do to help manage their stress. This was a great experience as I got to see the practical side to being a Psychologist, something I have missed by being behind a desk for the past few months. All the feedback from the event was really positive! All of the young people said they had enjoyed the event and would come again. Some people even asked questions, showing they weren't just there for the free food!

Last week, I also got to visit Charlton Farm Hospice, a hospice in the South West that offers end of life and respite (yearly support from diagnosis of a life-limiting condition) care to under 18's who are unlikely to live into adulthood. This was such a awe-inspiring visit, I would encourage everyone to visit a hospice during their life. The work the nurses do is absolutely amazing, and it really is not what you think!

Contrary to popular belief, hospices are not a place where people come to die. They are a place people come to live. The South West Hospices offer holidays to families who have a child with a life limited condition, complete with farm cottages for families to stay in. There are art rooms, swimming pools, gardens, special baths and showers with specially designed equipment so that everyone can use it. For many children, coming to the hospice may be the first time they have ever been able to ride a bike or take a bath or go swimming as everyone else has told them 'You can't do that, it's too dangerous!'. At the hospice, their motto is 'We will make it work'. The hospice truly felt like a happy place to go for a great time, where you could meet people similar to you and try new things. Each of the rooms were decorated with a different theme, that was specific to the visiting child - for example if a child likes Star Wars, their room will be filled with Star Wars games and bed covers. The staff do everything they can to make the family's visit a happy and fun one. End of life care is such a small part of what they do. it is time everyone finally learnt the truth about hospices.

During my time at Charlton Farm, the only time I felt sad to be there was when entering the beautiful 'Starborn room'. Where the child is placed after they have passed away. This room was filled with sadness but also beauty, as the staff explained all that they did to support the family and how death was not treated as a taboo here, but that parents and children were allowed and encouraged to think about what they would like to do when that time came. They were encouraged to remember their child, hosting special 'remembrance events' for families who had experienced a loss through a long-term illness. I left the hospice feeling happy and so appreciative towards the staff who had looked after the families for so long.

So please, break the taboo of death, learn more about what a hospice is and support the amazing work that these professionals do. They provide opportunities to children who, without them, may never have experienced life to the full. Placement is a time to embrace new experiences and learn more about Psychology.

You can learn more about South West hospices here: http://www.chsw.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

One Month In of a Lifetime.

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

This week marked one month since I started working at the Lifetime Service at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. The Lifetime Service aims to support children and their families with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions through an amazing team of Clinical Psychologists and Nursing staff.

 

In my first month here I have learnt so much. I have learnt how to conduct an audit and have since analysed the psychology referrals to Lifetime. I have also started to carry out an audit from scratch, looking into how many complex cases the staff manage through designing a questionnaire to see what types of complex cases are most common in the service and also the use of mobile tablets to enter patient records. This has taught me really valuable research skills which are great for providing experience for my Clinical Psychologist application in future.

 

I am also helping to run a research project by the Lifetime Clinical Psychologists which is looking into the psychological impact of having a child with a life-threatening condition on parents and how that impact is influenced by having a care package in place. I have created drafts of the consent, debrief and risk assessment, giving me a solid grounding for when I start organising my dissertation.

 

I have also learnt that working with children promotes a whole different range of therapeutic techniques than you would see in an adult. Instead of trying to work it all out in their heads the team use apps on tablets and diagrams to help the child make a picture of their thoughts that they can then explain and be treated. In children you would also be more likely to use a family focused technique, such as systemic therapy. Here you do not see the individual person experiencing difficulty as the only one who needs 'fixing', instead you look at how the family functions as a whole and how they might exacerbate or worsen the individual’s issue. Together they work towards creating a better environment and well-being for the whole family. Creating long lasting change and addressing issues that might have arisen in other family members as a result of the individual's behaviour or concerns. An amazing alternative to person focused therapy.

 

In addition to this I have learnt more about the variety of ways Psychology is used in the health service, it is not just used for treating mental illnesses! Did you know that Clinical Psychologists are also involved in the diabetes service to encourage children and adolescents to take their medication, even though they are terrified of needles? Did you know that Clinical Psychologists help to support families as they come to terms with the loss of a child? Or when they find out that they will likely bury their child?

 

I have discovered that Clinical Psychology is so much broader than I thought possible, with endless applications. I am finding out about areas of psychology that are less in the public eye but just as important to the well-being of their patients. It has made me so pleased that I decided to choose a placement that was not directly in the area I felt most interested in, if I had I would probably have never discovered the wide range of things Clinical Psychology has to offer.

 

But perhaps the best experience this has given me so far is the time away from constantly studying, so I can see who I am as a person and enjoy some of my early years before continuing the long slog to being a Clinical Psychologist. The most memorable event: Taking part in RAG's Zombie Apocalypse for the first time in three years. Update.... I probably would survive a zombie apocalypse (it must be all The Walking Dead training).

And this is why placements in Bath should never be underrated!

 

Here comes the work!

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

I have now been at my placement with the Lifetime Service, supporting children and families with life limiting illnesses for three weeks.

I have accomplished so many tasks that I scarcely know where to begin. However, what I soon learnt from this placement was that there was not always another task to move onto once one finished and I would need to take initiative to find something else to do with my time. This is common during the first weeks where your supervisor and the team are learning whether they can trust you and how good a worker you are. So keep trying your best and try to think of how a task could be done even better than how they suggested it.

For the large part, occupying my time after tasks has meant reading chapters from books to learn more about palliative care in children. A sad topic but one that is really important to understand  for this role. Palliative care occurs when there is no cure for the illness and it is life limiting (whether that be a few weeks or months), the aim is to give the person the best quality of life possible during their remaining days. This might be through discussions about whether they would like to continue treatments or psychological therapy to help them come to terms with their own death, which is where Lifetime comes in! Although reading doesn't seem like the most interesting thing to be doing on placement, it is really important to understand how everything works and the theory behind what the staff do.

Onto the more exciting tasks!

Despite the slow beginnings, things have really begun to pick up over this last week. The tasks they gave me when I arrived at the placement have started to be completed, such as setting up weekly Mindfulness workshops for staff members with a fellow clinical psychologist. I have also been designing 'take ten' meditation cards that have now been distributed grateful staff.

I have also carried out my first clinical audit on the type of psychology referrals Lifetime receives, preparing me for a much more thorough audit of the transition services (moving from child to adult services) which they hope I will carry out in the coming months. I found this really intimidating at first as I was worried that I would mess up such an important task, but that wasn't the case! The audit I carried out went really well, it took time and a lot of research into how to use excel (I am technologically challenged) but I was pleased with the first result and hope to keep developing these skills.

I have also been meeting with a clinical psychologist in the diabetes department, who offers support to families and young people who are struggling with a diagnosis of Type One diabetes or other issues, such as needle phobia or treatment aversion. For example, your typical teenager will want to rebel and one of the ways some teens do this is by not administering their insulin or eating correctly, risking their health. Part of the role I have been playing in this is helping the clinical psychologist to create a list of online resources and apps that might help the family or individual improve their well being. This was so well received that the Lifetime Service also asked for a copy and asked me to expand my current list of resources to include ones specifically aimed at supporting families with an Autistic child. Finding apps that clinicians could use to asses an individual's emotion awareness and websites for parents to turn to for reliable information about Autism and treatments. I felt so pleased that something I had done was so useful to the organisation that they asked for more things designed in that way.

So far on placement, I have learnt that there is always something to be done. Sometimes you just have to look for it using your own initiative.