Over the last few years I have found that my self-belief is my biggest challenge; methods, skills can be learned, confidence needs to be built!
I have in recent weeks been awarded an National Research Scheme Research Career Award. This is an award provided by the Chief Scientist Office to clinicians who show leadership potential in research and are deemed to be working on important research that can contribute to the health of people in Scotland. I will be focusing my fellowship time on 3 key aims; evaluating a system wide approach to using patient feedback to improve; building a collaborative of public, staff and academics interested in patient experience research and research into developing methods for feedback for seldom heard groups of people.
There was no-one more shocked than me to receive this award. I had been encouraged to consider applying by one of my colleagues and when I looked at the criteria I engaged in my usual spiral of telling myself I wasn’t good enough, not the caliber they were looking for and wasn’t working on research that fit their predominantly medical disease research priorities. So how did I get from that place to successfully navigating the process? First I took a deep breath, banished the self-doubt, reviewed my CV and talked myself round to the fact that the evidence in front of me would suggest that I had as much potential as anyone else applying. I also spent a few evenings considering what I would do with my time if I was successful – what would excite me, what was important with my range of interests, what further research was really needed in relation to my key interest in patient experience and how it can influence quality of care? I then started to write the application form, setting out the aims first then working on how I would achieve that and what needed to be in place in the NHS system to release me the one day a week that the award would give me. This gave me a first draft that I shared with my line manager and academic mentor for feedback. It really wasn’t as hard as I first thought and what I submitted felt right. I submitted it thinking – well this is what I want to do, this is how I think it contributes to the research priorities and it will be up to others to consider two things – did my ideas fit the priorities and did they want to invest in me?
The written proposal is only part of it though, there was also an interview – 20 minutes, 5 questions, quick fire opportunity to talk honestly about yourself and your ideas. Nerve wracking and liberating at the same time. What would I say to others considering applying in the near and not so near future. Choose a research area and engage in research that builds up a narrative that hangs well together, tells a story that shows your focus and interest. Surround yourself with people you like to work with and inspire you to grow into your potential, Never give up, be less humble, take risks and increasingly believe in yourself. Over the last few years I have found that my self-belief is my biggest challenge; methods, skills can be learned, confidence needs to be built!