Rose Penfold completed her Nuffield Research Placement in 2008 working in Paediatrics at Yeovil District Hospital. She recently graduated from the University of Oxford medical school.
What was your project about?
Working alongside the Paediatrics team at Yeovil District Hospital, I conducted a clinical audit looking at whether changes made to neonatal BCG vaccination policy had been implemented effectively.
In 2005, the Department of Health recommended a change from universal BCG vaccination of secondary schoolchildren to selective vaccination of high risk neonatal groups. Following an initial audit of BCG vaccination practice at Yeovil hospital in 2006, changes were made to try to improve coverage. My task was to complete the initial audit cycle by conducting a re-audit, to see whether these changes had resulted in improved coverage. I analysed notes of all 724 babies born between Nov 2007-Apr 2008 to determine: 1. If they were eligible for BCG vaccination and 2. Whether they were referred for the BCG. After analysis of these results, I was then able to suggest changes to increase the proportion of eligible babies referred which were implemented in the department.
If you could give one piece of advice to Nuffield students about to start a placement what would it be?
Remember that you are still at school - what is expected of you can only be appropriate for your level of knowledge and experience. Sometimes supervisors have worked with university students, PhDs, research assistants and may forget that you are still working towards your A-levels. Try not to be overwhelmed by this - but do embrace the challenge!
What would your advice be to young people thinking about a career in STEM?
Look beyond university. The number of courses and institutions is often daunting as a sixth form student and it is difficult to envisage yourself graduating from university. However, STEM courses really do open doors to a vast range of interesting careers and opportunities, quite often better funded and supported than those in the arts. If you are unsure about what to apply for at university – look at the vast range of career opportunities for graduates from courses such as engineering, biological sciences, physics – and be inspired! Be persistent: STEM is often difficult and hard work, but there are many rewards at the end.