Reflections of a Novice Nurse Researcher: Opportunities and Optimism
I completed my BN with Honours in 2016. I then studied for my Masters in Public Health which helped me to realise my interest in research, and has led me to actively pursue further experience in the nursing research field.
The University of Edinburgh Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme (PTAS) aims to encourage projects that improve teaching and learning, with collaboration between staff and students to explore innovative new ideas. I undertook the PTAS project with Julie Watson, Tonks Fawcett, Jo Hockley, and Sarah Rhynas, who provided me with supervision and guidance as we worked on the project together. The aim of the project was to explore undergraduate student nurses’ attitudes to care home nursing, for more information follow: https://www.ed.ac.uk/institute-academic-development/learning-teaching/funding/funding/previous-projects/year/march-2017/care-home-nursing.
My role in the project began after data collection was complete. It was my responsibility to undertake data analysis with supervision from Julie. I’d like to share some of my reflections on what I gained from this opportunity to be involved in a research project.
Through the project I was able to practice analysis with experienced researchers, observing and learning from their methods. This challenged my approach to the project, for example, I used Excel to undertake analysis, whereas Julie used NVivo. Julie showed me the main features and benefits of NVivo, which led to my adoption of her approach as I recognised how useful this software is, and that it is available free of charge through the University. I have since used NVivo in my analysis of a different research project and found it useful for managing large volumes of data.
Group discussions with the research team provided exposure to new ways of thinking, and challenged my own critical thinking skills, showing me new ways to approach interpretation of a data set.
I appreciated having the chance to read interview transcripts without having previous exposure to the data. This is a unique opportunity, which enabled me to determine findings entirely through recorded data. This evaded researcher-bias from participant contact, and I was able to reflect on how differently I approached the data compared to the rest of the research team.
I felt that reading the transcripts also allowed me to learn from the language and skills use by experienced researchers when collecting data from participants. I could reflect on the approach they used to build rapport with participants, and how they managed the focus group in order to extract the information they needed for the project. I will use these skills in the future when conducting focus groups.
Ultimately, PTAS offered me a rare opportunity to work closely on a research project with experienced academics, whilst having a significant emphasis on my own professional learning and development. This is a unique feature of PTAS, which allowed me to focus on my own development with a group of experienced academics, whilst it benefited the project to have a student’s insight into the data.
I am currently working as a Community Staff Nurse, which is providing me with a rich source of ideas for research. In the future I am optimistic I will use the skills I gained from PTAS to undertake a PhD, hopefully with the Nursing Studies department at the University of Edinburgh.
Post by: Zoe Horseman, Nursing Studies Alumni, Community Nurse, and Novice Researcher