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!

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.

RPS Responsible Pharmacist Symposium 26/01/2012


Jane and I were invited to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in London to attend a symposium about the responsible pharmacist regulations. It was organised by Martin Astbury (President of the RPS) and his colleagues and chaired by Catherine Duggan, Director of Professional Development and Support at the RPS. Both Jane and I were very excited to be invited and the day was even more interesting than the programme had promised. Originally billed as a discussion of the responsible pharmacist regulations it quickly led into discussions about the idea of developing a just culture in pharmacy.

In proposing this idea Martin Astbury and Catherine Duggan are breaking new ground in pharmacy practice as discussions in the literature have focused on a more general definition of safety culture. They also invited representatives from other industries e.g. Sean Parker from the Civil Aviation Authority to talk about how the just culture works in the aviation industry. Sean spoke about how the aerospace industry has been working towards a “just culture” and about their successes and failures in terms of safety management. This was very exciting for Jane and I as our mental workload research is based on research from the aerospace industry and we feel that there is a lot of ideas and measures that can be applied in pharmacy practice. What a relief to know that we have been working along the correct lines the last couple of years and that the professional body as a whole is now also considering what can be learnt from this industry.

For me, as a young researcher to be able to meet so many big names in the pharmacy practice world was very exciting. I have yet to perfect my networking skills so I was also very nervous the whole day, but the other conference delegates kindly listened to my ideas and thoughts when we broke up into small groups to discuss how a just culture could work for pharmacy. There were many great view points and it was clear that each sector of pharmacy perceived different barriers to the development of this culture. The overall biggest one was how pharmacy sits within the wider health care services, and is it possible for pharmacy to develop a new culture when they are also embedded in the culture of the NHS and their respective trusts, or communities?

Overall for me, I was just thrilled to be invited to the very first discussion and meeting about this potential shift in pharmacy culture, especially as it fits so nicely with our research. There will be a lot more work and discussion within the profession before anything is decided or done, so I will keep updating this page with news and information as I get it.

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

Well it’s been a week and a half since I posted…so I thought I better provide a quick update on the progress of the student study. So far I have recruited 13 participants and tested 10. This equates to 15% of the sample I need to properly power my study. So recruitment is a little slower than I had hoped. For that reason I am going to go back to ethics to get permission to use posters and maybe announcements at the end of 4th year lectures. This will take a couple of months to come into effect, but will help me bolster recruitment next year as well. I just wish I had included it in my original application. With hindsight it would have been sensible, but this is the first time I have recruited students to take part in my research as all the other research I have done / collected data for has involved healthcare professionals or patients as participants and we don’t tend to use posters and sign up sheets for these groups (as often we are working at multiple sites). Still the point of a PhD is to learn and to reflect on one’s practice as a researcher so I will try not to kick myself too much. I will update again in the near future hopefully with some more positive recruitment figures.

Hungarian National Gallery July 2011

The last part of mine and Mr F’s honeymoon was spent in Budapest. It is such beautiful city as you can see from this shot of Parliament (in Pest) taken from Buda. Did you know Budapest is made up of two main towns – Buda and Pest (I was so excited to learn that). Anyway, whist we were there we visited the Hungarian National Gallery ( as we knew from our guide book that the gallery had a stunning permanent collection of Hungarian art from the last few centuries. However what I wasn’t expecting to see was a collection of art created by people diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s syndrome.

For me the most exciting part of this exhibition was that these pieces of art were accompanied by qualitative quotes (below) about these individuals’ experiences of the world and every day interactions with people. What a wonderful insight into their lives these individuals had offered the visitors to this gallery. This exhibition was as revealing as artists’ self portraits.

I often work with qualitative methodologies in my reserach in fact I don’t think I could ever consider doing a piece of research that didn’t have a qualitative element. For me this exhibition demonstrates just how effective and essential these methods are. The richness of data, the depth of understanding of experiences in an individual’s own words and in this case, drawings.

I often hear from other researchers (including some psychologists) that qualitative work is airy fairy. When I read these quotes below the words that spring to my mind aren’t airy fairy or touchy feely. I will let you make up your own minds! 

Above and below are a couple of photos of paintings that the quotes accompanied. They don’t show the work in the greatest of detail. Many of the paintings and drawings were like this, lots of abstract patterns. One piece, which I don’t have a photo of, had similar patterns formed out of the number 6 written again and again.

This was such an elegant combination of art and psychology for me that I just had to share it. I highly reccommend a visit to the HNG and definitely a trip to Budapest if you haven’t been. Not sure what my next post is going to be about yet. I have to say so far writing for this blog has been a great exercise in organising my thoughts!

Future science leaders 2011

A few weeks ago I went to a conference at the University of Oxford – called the future science leaders conference 2011 and it was one of the main reasons that I started writing a blog. The conference was aimed at early career researchers (so PhD students and post-doc researchers) working in any aspect of science. There were a range of presentations but one was about networking and really getting your work and yourself known and out there. This was followed by an after dinner talk by nobel laureate William D Phillips who talked about his surprise that many researchers were fearful of talking about their research and ideas just in case someone else decided to jump in and use them or do the same before you managed to finish and publish the work.

I now know that this fear of being gazumped harks back to the days when Watson and Crick received the nobel prize for the discovery of the DNA double helix. Their theory was based on Rosalind Franklin’s data and findings and she had also been about to publish this idea but they got there first. Sadly and this was not Watson & Crick’s fault, the nobel prize was also awarded to W&C after Rosalind Franklin died and at the time the Nobel prize committees did not award the prize to dead researchers (Glynn, 2008).  I learnt all this after the conference when I was telling my supervisor about Prof Phillip’s ideas on being open about your research ideas. Prof William’s talk became even more interesting when I heard the Franklin, Watson and Crick story because the conference was funded by a the Rosalind Franklin award (from the Royal Society). I wonder what Rosalind Franklin herself would say about being open about one’s research. Prof Phillip’s idea was that one should publish and talk and write about the good and bad things about one’s research what worked, what didn’t because even if it helps another research team – this furthers your research field, moves it on, leaving you to get on with bigger and better things, the faster the field develops the faster your work does too.

I agree with him.. So I am now writing this blog although I know I haven’t put my ideas out there yet as I just don’t know where to start (and I am still a teensy bit apprehensive – one step at a time)!

 Glyn, J. (2008). Rosalind Franklin: 50 years on. Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 62(2), 253-255. doi: 10.1098/rsnr.2007.0052

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