Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?
I applied because my Biology teacher mentioned it in class and it sounded like a great project to be involved with, as I liked science (I was doing Chemistry, Physics and Biology) and wanted to take part in extra curricular activities that would set me apart when it came to university applications. I also thought the fact that we could get a bursary was attractive, and thought it would be a productive way to spend my summer.
Was the work what you expected?
The work wasn't what I expected at all. I had a hospital-based placement in mind, and particularly wanted to see if I could shadow a doctor or get an opportunity to see medical procedures for example, but I soon realized that it would be very difficult to arrange this without greater prior notice and also there were only a limited placements available.
I did my placement in occupational therapy and I knew nothing about occupational therapy at all. I hadn't encountered it before, and so I didn't have many expectations about what I would be doing, but was glad to find that I enjoyed my 5 weeks there and loved the opportunity to learn about something new.
How did your supervisor help you with your project?
My supervisor was great. Prior to my placement I had a meeting with them which was a good opportunity to build up a rapport and discuss the project that I was going to be working on - the research project was started the previous year by another student, and I was there to build on it and develop it. I mostly got help at the beginning stage and at the end stage, especially when it came to providing resources and visual aids for the presentation. As my supervisor was quite senior and was often busy or wouldn't always work on site, for the majority of the time I was paired up with another staff member who had supervised the previous student, so I didn't feel at a great disadvantage. Because this staff member was an outreach support worker, I had the opportunity to go and assist outreach support workers in the various activities provided by the service as well as meet service users whom I surveyed for my research.
What was your project about? Did you know much about the area before you started?
My project was based on the Integrated Community Equipment Service, which was jointly funded by the Birmingham City Council and the Birmingham East and North Primary Care Trust. My aim was to find out whether poor communication was a limiting factor in delivery the service to the community.
Did you learn any new skills?
I learnt a lot. Not only did I learn about a new field and gain insight into working in a professional environment, but I felt very involved from the beginning, from working on the project initiation document, to compiling the survey, making the PowerPoint presentation, writing my report, liaising with service users and initiating meetings and overall, working autonomously. I also found out that I could present my research to healthcare professionals successfully (as I was award a certificate at a Heartlands Hospital presentation).
Did the work you did over the summer help you to decide what you want to do next?
It most certainly did. Doing the Nuffield project opened me up to so many opportunities, which influenced the choices I made when it came to university applications. Due to the experience, I was inspired to gain more experience in allied health professions. I was able to gain even more work experience opportunities in that same summer, through the great connections I made, particularly with my local cooordinator. I had the opportunity to gain experience in occupational therapy (this time hospital based), nursing, physiotherapy, diagnostic radiography and therapeutic radiography. The work experience was invaluable as it helped me decide to pursue diagnostic radiography, which I am currently studying now at university. Initially I was considering a career in medicine, but alternatively knowing how competitive it is, biomedical science was my next choice. I know that that would have been the wrong choice.
What are your future plans after university?
I hope to start working as a diagnostic radiographer, in a London hospital possibly,
What advice would you give to students applying for a Nuffield Research Placement?
It's a really fantastic opportunity. I could not recommend it enough. I'd advise students to make the most of the opportunity. Ask questions, and be proactive. I also think that it can be a great platform to visit other departments to learn about what goes on there (in a hospital for example).