What I learnt this week: Research resilience #WILTW

This is the 36th #WILTW

This week I formally received my PhD. A chance to dress up, wear a funny hat and sit with a sense of dread that you will be the person who trips up the stairs en route to shake hands with the vice-chancellor. My PhD was completed well over 6 months ago – my first graduation ceremony postponed as it ironically clashed with the presentation of my findings at an academic conference. Since then enough time has passed that I have ‘graduated’ in other ways; most notably a new consultant job with increased levels of responsibility and accountability.

Completing a PhD is a big task – the write up was painstaking and the viva a more challenging process than I had expected. The latter perhaps a sign a naivety on my part, the former an inevitably. It was uncomfortable though, in a week in which I have faced a number of challenging clinical situations, to be forced to ponder what I had gained from this academic qualification? Other than some letters after my name and a life time of, “so can we call you Dr Dr now?” of course..

Snakes and Ladders

Earlier in the week I spoke to a group of academic trainees in Emergency Medicine. I was in hindsight maybe too stark in my views of the challenges of academia. The pressure of ‘output’ doesn’t relent. You can leave what might be the most horrible shift behind but even when you press submit on your grant or paper submission you can’t relax until you find the words ‘accept’ on the email in response. This maybe months later. You have repeated tough decisions about which paths to follow, which projects to chase and which fantastic ideas to drop to ensure you have a balanced work load with adequate capacity to not impinge on your clinical duties.

I wasn’t initially sure my PhD really prepared me for any of these challenges, it certainly hasn’t had the dramatic effect on my writing style I hoped it might! What it has given me though is resilience. Despite all the negative things I could think of, some in honesty clearly over-emphasised for effect (follow @academicsay for examples), I still feel enthused and passionate about my work. For every rejection letter there is (eventually) a publication. For every day wasted on a grant application there is chance to work with some truly inspirational people and feel that you are contributing to work that makes a difference. Whether the PhD gave me resilience or just confirmed I had it I am not sure. What I learnt this week that tenacity is always eventually rewarded.

Graduating Isla 2(My daughter on her graduation from nursery…)

What did you learn this week #WILTW

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