One year and 2 months later….

… and the last participant of study 1 has

taken part!!!!!!!!!!!!

source: a photo taken by my better half at a fireworks display in Bristol a few years back

As I write this post the final participant is just running through the study, and it seemed like a good time to reflect on what has been involved in this study, as quite often I find, you don’t quite realise how much work you’ve done until you add up how many questionnaires you’ve administered, or hours you’ve spent with participants. So here we go – a few stats:

  • It has taken a year and 2 months
  • It has involved 104participants.
    • 52 4th year MPharm students from the University of Bath took part.
    • 52  community pharmacists from the south-west (and also a lot farther afield thanks to some very dedicated pharmacists) took part
  • 416 questionnaires have been completed for this study (I am slightly regretting asking so many questions now that I have seen the finished size of the study database)
  • In testing time alone it has taken 208 hours

I am, as you can tell, relatively calm about this landmark moment in my PhD! 

Actually when you look at the stats above, that doesn’t look like that much for a years work but it feels like a lot more has been involved – and there has really – all the difficult to measure time spent on recruitment, posting out info, e-mailing and telephoning pharmacists and pharmacies.

But I didn’t do this alone – a few people in particular have been a huge support – and have contributed a lot to this research so here are my acknowledgements:

  1. Jane – my very dedicated supervisor – I need several posts just to tell you how flipping wonderful she is. We have the best time ever working together, it is not work, it’s lots of giggles. We can be serious too though.
  2. Chris – who looks after our student dispensary – and for the last 2 years my research projects!
  3. My Office – I work in an office with about 9 other people (it varies from time to time) PhD students and Research Officers. Between them they have fielded phone calls for me and met participants when I have been with other participants in our student dispensary, which helpfully has no mobile phone reception, or easy-to-get to land-line. Without them, many participants may never have found me! Universities are such rabbit warrens – I still get lost and I’ve been here 4 years!

So there you go, study 1 down! Study 2 and the follow-up study will be down before Christmas. Hooray!

And now to leave my desk and head off for a celebratory dinner with Mr F!


17.06.2012 – A long overdue study update!

I cannot believe it, the end of this week marked the end of my second year of my PhD. I am now officially a third (and hopefully final) year PhD student. The great news is, we are running to plan. As you should be able to see from the Gantt chart above I have until December this year to finish my data collection. Thankfully, everything seems to be running pretty smoothly, as you can see in my updates below.

Pharmacy Student Study Update

Well the great news is that we have completed the first of the two planned studies with our pharmacy students at the University of Bath. I finally hit my target recruitment for study 1. It has taken me a good 9 months to get all the participants we needed, thankfully I completed the qualitative aspect months ago and all the data is ready and waiting to be analysed. So this week I am going to be looking at that as I have a week off from the Community Pharmacist study (more about that in the update below). In October when the students return, we will start the second study and hope that our recruitment is quicker this time round – with all that we have learnt from this first study about how to engage students in our research.

The students who have taken part in our first study have been fantastic and they have given me lots of ideas, and plans for future research. So a huge thank you to all of them for all their help. Finishing this first study was a real boost for my motivation – the end is now in sight and it is just the icing on the top of the cake that I met so many students on my way to this first target.

Community Pharmacist Study Update

Things are starting to move pretty quickly now which is exciting. We have around 20 pharmacists from a range of community pharmacy settings (supermarket, national chain, independent, as well as some lovely locum pharmacists) signed up and booked in to take part so we are already roughly 1/5 of our way to our minimum recruitment figures (min 104 participants – max 130 participants). The rest are slowly but surely coming in and we are starting to experience a snow-ball effect where the participants we have already met are recommending our project to their colleagues. I will take this opportunity to say thank you so much to those pharmacists who are recommending our study – we really appreciate your support. Unlike the pharmacy student participants, our community pharmacist participants need a little more notice to either organise locum cover, or find a day when they can come in, and so I have just begun to meet my first few participants in the last few weeks. So far so good, the testing is going well and our first few participants have reported that they enjoyed the study and see the applications of the theory underlying these studies and our plans for the future as important for their profession which is more than encouraging.

It has now been about six weeks since I sent out the first round of invitations to pharmacists to invite them to take part (before that we spent a few weeks contacting pharmacy organisations asking for their permission to carry out the research with their pharmacists). The standard protocol is to do three mail shots, so after this we have one more mail-shot to do (in about another 6 weeks time). I will also be following this mail-shot up with phone-calls to pharmacies over the coming weeks, to aid recruitment. Anyway, Jane and I spent almost 2 whole days preparing information packs for our second round of invitations to pharmacists to take part in the study. I am so grateful to Jane, like all lecturers she is stupidly busy, but she still finds time to help me out stuffing envelopes.

Key dates:

One of the big upcoming events in this project’s diary is our Project Management Group meeting which is next Monday 25th June, which I am both nervous and excited for. It’s like having a mini viva (viva: the oral exam which all PhD students have to pass to receive their PhD) every time we meet with our PMG. All the members are incredibly knowledgeable and very important in the Pharmacy world and so it is important to me that I can show them what a great job that Jane, Marjorie and I have been doing since we last met. In July we will submit our interim report to our funders so the meeting is in preparation for this.

One other little project…

As if I didn’t have enough to do this week, this is the week that our bathroom is being renovated. This is the first major thing we have done to our home and I am very nervous that there is something we haven’t considered or planned for. Purposefully, I have not planned to meet any participants this week, as I know that tomorrow when our bathroom is ripped out I am going to be a bag of nerves and won’t settle until it is all re-fitted and finished! A nervous researcher is not ideal especially when running experiments because the experimenter can consciously or unconsciously have a large effect on participants behaviour. I always aim to be calm, collected and approachable. If any of my family or friends are reading this last line I know they are now laughing because I am not well-known for being calm and collected, I am generally quite an excited, over-enthusiastic person!

I promise to be back with another update soon!

Pharmacy student & Community Pharmacist studies progress update

SUCCESS image credits to the_chosen_pessimist

Well it has been a while since I wrote an update on our progress. So I suspect I have a lot to write about in this update post. February and March were very exciting months for us and I am pleased to say that the projects are progressing pretty much as well as we could possibly hope for. I love the photo above, I saw a presentation once where someone used this, and it is just such a great photo – perfectly demonstrates that feeling of yes – I’ve done it. Well we haven’t quite done it yet, but we are feeling pretty good about where we have got to so far so I thought this was a fitting image for this post!

Pharmacy Student Study Update

I have now reached the end of recruitment with our current 4th year Pharmacy students. Our total number of participants hit 43 – so we have no quite reached our target for the first (of 2) experiments with the pharmacy students. However, all 43 participants provided complete sets of data (for which I am very thankful) so they can all be part of the analysis. I am going to set about analysing this data now and see if we have found anything, but as we are 9 short of our minimum sample size of 52 for experiment 1 (we based this on Cohen’s power primer paper) I expect we will need to recruit and test some more participants. If the analyses don’t show anything significant yet (my sneak peaks definitely suggest there may be some trends) I will recruit the remaining 9 (or a few more if we can) from the 3rd year students once they have sat their dispensing exams next month.

I had completed the qualitative arm of experiment 1 at the end of 2011 so I am slowly transcribing this data and need to start analysing that too.

Community Pharmacist Study Update

To date we have 5 of the large multiple pharmacies signed up (this includes community pharmacies based in supermarkets). They all wrote back within a few days of receiving our letter and one company even rang to say how interested they were! We also have been contacted by a few community pharmacists (even before we sent out recruitment letters) who have seen our media coverage and said they would like to take part! We are thrilled by this response. We have yet to contact individual pharmacists, but we have our first project management group meeting on Thursday and we wanted to hold off before we spoke to our key advisors to make sure whether they had any hints and tips on how best to approach individual pharmacists (that we haven’t already thought of).

This brings me onto our second item – our project management group (PMG). I can’t quite believe we have managed to do this, but, we have a rather prestigious set of individuals (who I won’t name just yet as I haven’t asked them if I can) all involved in UK pharmacy practice either at a strategic, academic or practice level who have agreed to be members of our PMG. The first meeting is this Thursday (5th April 2012) which I am preparing for at the moment. This meeting will just be an introduction to the project, but we will meet 3 more times before the end of the project to discuss our findings and prepare our reports to PTECO and plan journal and conference papers.  The members of our PMG have been specifically selected to give a local and national strategic view on the impact our data may have on practice. They may also have alternative interpretations of our results to offer, given their insights into community pharmacy practice across organisations, experiences of running a community pharmacy and/or as a community pharmacist. This will ensure our research stays firmly grounded in UK pharmacy practice. Personally, I cannot wait for this first meeting, it is a huge opportunity for me to meet these individuals, nevermind have them involved in my doctoral research.

I think this study will move a lot quicker than the pharmacy student study so I hope to be providing very regular updates on our progress with it.

All in all, things are looking very good! What a lucky PhD student I am!

Student Study & Community Pharmacist Study Updates 14.03.2012

Image by Roger Hargreaves

Sorry for the lack of study updates recently, it has been a busy few weeks. It started with a weeks worth of media coverage of our community pharmacist study that we have just launched in various pharmacy publications – who would have known a project not even completed could create so much interest? For this Jane, Marjorie and I are so very grateful and very excited – we hope there is just as much interest next year when we have data to publish.

In between that I have been testing participants for the student study. We are now up to 40 students through the first experiment so we have almost hit our total for the first study (52). I am hoping we get our last few recruits soon because I cannot wait to look at our data. The database is looking so lovely and full – it’s odd, but to me it really is a thing of beauty. This is probably because I know how many hours of hard work has gone into filling the database and it’s amazing to see the slow but sure outcome of all our efforts.

With regards to the community pharmacist study, the big news is that we got ethics a couple of weeks ago and I have now sent out information about the study (as of today) to pharmacy chain CEOs and superintendent pharmacists, to ask their permission for me to do research with their organisation before I contact their local and regional pharmacy managers about it. The independent pharmacy and small pharmacy chain letters are in process too and I hope I will get them out tomorrow. So we are definitely on a roll.

In between that I have been doing a lot of demonstrating work – which is basically a teaching assistant role for university workshops. I love these sessions – even when I do the same session several times over with different groups of students. However, it does take me out of the lab for hours at a time, and/or away from my desk and so I have noticed that my research time has more than halved in the last few weeks. There are only a few more weeks left of teaching for me now until next October, so I am making the most of it because I really do enjoy working with the students.

In the odd moments of calm I have also been busy working with Jane and Marjorie and some of our other colleagues on papers and grant proposals.

How I have found time to do all this I just don’t know, in fact now I read this it is no wonder I have felt like a headless chicken the last few weeks. Ironically, my mental workload has been very high at times (mostly due to time pressure) and I have noticed myself missing things, doing things wrong or forgetting to do things. So it’s not only pharmacists that may be affected by mental workload, it may be researchers too!

So as you can see it has been an amazing few weeks, busy, but in the best of ways. I have yet to have time to listen to the second installment of the Prof James Reason medical errors BBC radio 4 programme that I wrote about here. I hope I get to listen to it by the end of the week and I will write about it then!

Recruitment Update for Pharmacy Student study 23.02.2012

Good news! Things are looking up. Since my slightly downbeat, and overall nervous post a few days ago, about my concerns over the slow recruitment, I have had some more people sign up over the last few days and I am now much more hopeful that we will reach our first recruitment target in the next few weeks.

By tomorrow I will have tested 33 participants and I have another 5 lined up. So only 14 more pharmacy students needed now! Phew!

One thing I also didn’t mention in my last post, is that there are about 90 students in the 4th year of the Master of Pharmacy programme. My aim is to recruit 52 4th year students this year so I am trying to recruit over half of this group, which is a rather ambitious target for any research project. So when you think about it like that I actually have been very lucky to have so many enthusiastic pharmacy students take part already. So really my recruitment rate is quite healthy. Hooray! I will still keep willing the recruitment to go faster though as I cannot wait till I can run some analyses.

Recruitment update for pharmacy student study

This week I re-started the recruitment and testing for our pharmacy student study. I had to pause recruitment and testing for this study for the whole of December and January whilst the students were away for their Christmas holidays and then the exam period in the new year. So I was well and truly ready to get stuck back in to the data collection. I can’t wait till I’ve completed the first study so that we can run our analyses and see what is happening.

The good news is I made a very good start in this first week as I managed to test six students. I have got another 4 booked in this week and then a couple for the following week. However, frustratingly I need about another 20 people to sign up and I am struggling to get there. My posters, visits to lectures and 2 recruitment e-mails have only pulled in those 12 or so participants, I have one e-mail reminder left and then I am not sure what I am going to do next to get students participating in my study other than relying on the snowball effect from now on.

I now know I have chosen a difficult group to study and I am starting to understand why the researchers whose work I am trying to replicate and extend used psychology undergraduates, not pharmacy undergraduates. The advantage to using Psychology students for research is they have to take part in experiments to gain course credits – so you have a captive audience. When I did my psychology degree we all had to do 10hrs research participation every term for 3 years mostly taking part in post-grads research. So in total those postgrads got 90hrs of my time! For free! Pharmacy students dont have to take part in research and are not used to being invited to take part in research either. Plus pharmacy students have a huge work load (especially compared to psychology students) so it does not surprise me that I am struggling to get loads of volunteers.

However this study is important and just because a population is hard to reach/engage it doesn’t mean you should not involve them in research – in fact not to do so leads to biased research in any given area. So I will keep going! I have one last hope that this term I help teach on the health psychology module to my target participants and so maybe seeing me once a week for the next few months will help me keep my project in their minds and maybe they will eventually sign up.

Having had a mini rant I must also add that I have been so pleased to meet everyone who has taken part so far. They have all been lovely and enthusiastic and have had lots of helpful insights into the real world application of my research. More than that, having met them all I am super impressed with all these soon to be pharmacists that the University of Bath are producing. I am not saying this because it is the corporate line, I honestly can’t sing their praises enough when I compare myself to them at their age I had no clue how to act professionally and yet they are becoming true professionals already. Plus their knowledge on medicines is immense. It is very impressive.

I hope to bring you lots of positive recruitment updates over the next few weeks and fingers crossed I may even reach my targets soon.

P.s. I’ve updated my recruitment syringe on the homepage as I’ve now tested 30 participants in total!

Ready, Set, go…

(Image courtesy of Microsoft clipart)

Well now we’re in 2012 and this is THE year for my PhD. I have until December to collect all the data I need (eeek). I can definitely feel the clock ticking and more than anything else I cannot believe I am over half-way through my PhD. Where did all that time go? More for my needs than anyone elses, below is a quick summary of what I have done in the last couple of months and what is next.

Where I have got to: The student study has been up and running for a few months, although nothing has been happening since mid-December as the students are on exams till February. However, by December I had recruited and tested 21 pharmacy students and interviewed 7 of these participants for the qualitative part of the student study. The ethics applications for the staff study have been written and will be submitted ASAP for review at the beginning of February.

What’s happening next: The students will hopefully be back at the beginning of February so recruitment and testing will start in a week or so. This time I am armed with some fancy posters to try and attract their attention. Also, the community pharmacist study will hopefully be launching in the next few weeks and I am very excited about that. The chance to take my ideas out into practice will be very cool. I am hoping as well as getting lots of participants that I will get lots of very useful feedback from community pharmacists and the other pharmacy staff about my ideas and research which will be great for my write-up next year.

Blog changes: As this blog was set up as a site where potential participants could learn more about my research I need to re-focus this blog so that it meets their needs. This has meant a little bit of reorganisation  so that there are now pages for my two groups of participants. I also decided to change the theme, decided on this calm blue one – I wonder if the colour of your blog/website affects people’s decision to participate in your research/ buy your product / read your posts? I am sure there must be some brand-based research out there that has the answer to that question. Anyway, I digress! Please bear with me if you have been reading this and things keep moving around. It will all be sorted shortly and then order will be restored (well the kind of order that exists inside my head anyway as this blog is organised in a way that makes sense to me)!

Study update

Writing this blog has been a lesson in both how busy I am some weeks and also how lazy I can be a times.

me about to have a quick snooze on the train

A great friend of mine told me when I started this that having a blog is like having a hungry child – or maybe just a child – it always needs looking after. Well I have well and truly failed as a blog-mother. I haven’t written on here nearly as much as I planned to, or about any of the things I thought I might write about. I have been busy, unusually busy actually, but I think there is also something else stopping me – mostly I want to avoid writing things on here which I would like to write-up for a conference abstract or a paper. This is because I have been told (although being a lazy person I have not researched this myself) that there are some restrictions with regards to academic journals publishing information that is already in the public domain elsewhere – or so I am told. The annoying thing is that all the bits I want to write-up formally are all the bits I am most excited about and engaged with. Eventually if they get published or if no-one wants to publish them I will post them / a link to the publication here but that could be like a year away or longer. 

I need to think again about what this blog is for because mainly I want this blog to be great, and a reflection of how enthusiastic I am about my research and the fields of pharmacy practice / psychology. At the moment this blog does neither of these things. There is only one solution I am going to have to start brainstorming some more interesting material than study updates!

Having said all that – I do want to do a quick update on my progress – I know this is a very dry topic – but I’ve enjoyed seeing my progress over the last few months (as slow as it has been sometimes). The great news is I have almost finished the qualitative follow-up part of my student study – and it has gone better than I could have hoped in many respects. Firstly I had so many volunteers I was able to strategically select student pharmacists with varying levels of work experience. This is great as it means I have successfully recruited my whole sample for this follow-up and I had given myself until next year to do that. Finally one thing that is happening ahead of schedule! The less great news is that I have only managed to test and recruit 21 participants for the experimental part of my student study and sadly there are no more offers of participation coming through from students. Thankfully this is not the disaster it could be as the ethics came through today saying I could extend my study period which is great as it means I can contact the students again next feb when all of them are back (including those on placement) to see if they will take part in my study. Phew!

Right – study update over – I am off to brainstorm now – a good activity for a Friday afternoon I think!

Study update

Ok starting to look more positive, I have tested 17 participants now! Hooray and I have three waiting to be tested probably next week…hopefully a few more will sign up as I have used my last reminder, until I hear back from ethics hopefully with approval to do some more direct recruiting.

Interviews are ready to go which is great and then all my spare time has been spent preparing for these and entering all this data I have collected from the first 17 participants. This is the time I start getting annoyed with myself during any piece of research as I think why did I have to administer so many questionnaires as I get overwhelmed by the pages worth of data! I am sure my participants don’t thank me for that either, but needs must. If only mood states didn’t change so quickly and often I could get away with one simple questionnaire.

Data entering is by far one of the most frustrating parts of this study because it is long-winded, but the best thing about carrying out this particular study is that all the students have said afterwards how useful they have found it. Which is great, I am so glad they feel they get some benefit out of taking part other than the small financial incentive (£15 of high street vouchers). The reason they have given me when they say they find it so useful is simply that they get to practice a core skill that they will use when they start working as pre-registration pharmacists next summer. In their fourth (and final) year of their Master of Pharmacy programme students do not do any practical classes, they do a research dissertation or placement during semester 1 and then in semester 2 they sit a variety of advance clinical and theoretical modules.This means they don’t practice any of the practical skills they will be using when they become pre-registration pharmacists from July 2012 onwards. This worries a lot of them, as like any good soon-to-be healthcare professional they want their skills to be on top form. My study gives them an hour of dedicated time for them to practice their checking skills.

The other thing that makes my study useful to them is the task set is also more realistic than those they get in class. This I think is a good experience for them too. The aim of the dispensing classes they completed in earlier years was to identify errors in a batch of dispensed prescriptions. The students quickly come to learn that there will be an error with every item, because this is how the class tasks are designed. The students see a much lower error rate in my study and it throws them at first. Even though I tell them that the task set is designed to be realistic and that they should not expect to find an error on every single item like in class. I found on my pilot I had to explain this as participants were failing to complete the task altogether as they would spend forever looking for an error that wasn’t there. They wouldn’t do this in real practice as they wouldn’t expect their fellow pharmacists to be making an error every time they dispensed something, so to me it didn’t seem wrong to give them this piece of information (i.e. I don’t think I was biasing their performance beyond levels expected in real practice by giving them this information).

All in all a happy PhD student today. Recruitment still isn’t what I hoped but the study is going well and I know I will get the numbers I need eventually. It’s just going to take a bit more time and a bit more flexibility from me.

Study update

Still only at 11 participants but 4 more booked in for the next couple of days and more in the process of signing up…so we’re slowly getting there. Part of the trouble has been my diary. By the time participants respond to me I am booked up with other work – resolution – obvious really – block out times reserved for carrying out the study and if no one signs up then I have a spare 2 hours to do some data entry or other pressing tasks.

I will also be starting the qualitative part of my study soon. It will be good to get that done as I am hoping the findings from that will feed into my study with qualified pharmacists that I hope to start around Feb time. For the qualitative part I am recruiting participants from those who have already taken part in the experimental aspect of the study so I am feeling confident that some of them will sign up.

I am also hoping I will have a big influx of participants around January time when all the students who have been on placements come back as around half the students are on placement at the moment. A very annoying factor which is affecting my response rate. Still working with people is so much more fun to me than any other form of data collection that I can overlook these minor frustrations.

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