Research and Implementation Assistants

Our Experiences and Opportunities working with the YQSR team

Olivia Johnson & Alice Dunning

We are undergraduate placement Psychology students from the University of Leeds working as research and implementation assistants for the Yorkshire Quality and Safety Research Team. Here we talk about the experience of doing this unique placement and how it has enabled us to develop useful skills for our psychology careers in the future. With a month and a half left with the YQSR team we’re looking back at our time spent here…

We’ve had the opportunity to be involved in many different innovative research projects whilst being here but  we have spent most time on two projects: ward staff wellbeing and diagnosis research.

Nurse wellbeing research
Our involvement in the ward staff wellbeing project has been overseen by Dr Judith Johnson and has been a valuable experience. We became involved in this project very early on in our placement, initially doing some scoping research into what investigations have taken place which looks at the relationship between wellbeing of ward staff, mainly nurses, to patient safety outcomes. This gave us a good opportunity early on to become familiar with the subject area. Through feeding back findings and attending meetings we started to develop an understanding of why this research was important and what needs to be done in the area.

Once data collection commenced we began to go out to hospitals from three NHS trusts. We distributed questionnaires to ward staff to collect information on their wellbeing and their perception of patient safety, which was a really eye opening part of our involvement in this research. It was one of the most motivating parts of the placement but also one of the most daunting – approaching people to speak to can be difficult especially when they’re stressed and short on time. However, it was an opportunity to see the research take shape and see the problems, which the research was trying to solve, in action. Speaking to nurses and other healthcare staff on the wards was a wonderful way to really see and understand why healthcare research is so vital.

Cancer diagnosis research
Another part of our role has been to contribute to a systematic review looking at patient involvement within cancer diagnosis, supervised by Dr Jane Heyhoe and Caroline Reynolds. The review aimed to find interventions which involve patients in achieving a timely and accurate diagnosis in primary care. The findings will provide an understanding of how patient involvement may assist in improving the diagnosis of cancer. Our role within this review was to assess the eligibility of the papers which came back from database searches. This role was challenging, time consuming and a lesson in patience, however it has been a valuable lesson in the realities of being part of research. Throughout the process of putting papers through the inclusion and exclusion process we had regular meetings with Jane and Caroline in order to check that we were in agreement as to what papers should be put forward to the next round of assessment. This was important to stand up to the rigours of research, but was also helpful in encouraging us, and most importantly keeping the work fun!

Our personal project
As this work involved reading thousands of abstracts about diagnosis, it boosted an interest that we had within this area and led to the start of our own project. For this we looked at the website Patient Opinion and conducted our own mini review of stories about people’s experiences of diagnosis at their GP. We assessed how communication within these consultations had impeded or helped diagnosis. This has been incredibly rewarding as apart from advice from members of the team the work has solely come from us and our own interests.

What we’ve gained
In addition to providing us with useful academic skills for the future, this placement has also helped us to develop some real life skills and emerge into the world of work. It has developed our confidence and influenced our desired career paths. Both of us feel that this placement has really solidified our interest in psychological research and will be invaluable when we return to university.  We are both extremely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a multi-disciplinary team with individuals from so many different academic backgrounds as well as those with clinical experience.   We have been involved in genuinely exciting research that wouldn’t be possible without the wonderful team we’ve been lucky enough to work with. We’re looking forward to the rest of our time here and will be following the team in future.