Why I chose to do a doctorate

Clinical commissioning group registered nurse Elaine Strachan-Hall goes back to the classroom to undertake a PhD

Clinical commissioning group registered nurse Elaine Strachan-Hall goes back to the classroom to undertake a PhD

Picture: Getty Images

Like many students, I was heard to exclaim ‘Never again’ at graduation. Roll forward a few years, or two decades to be exact, and here I am at university again. Like my previous courses, it’s part time, this time one Saturday a month. I must admit though, in the spirit of transparency, that the same self-doubt and anxiety about expectations have returned, mixed with a heavy dose of imposter syndrome.

Joy of learning

What I had forgotten, and what I have loved over the past year, is how good it feels to be learning again, the joy of reading professional texts. I’ve relished the indulgence of thinking about what it means to be a nurse and the inspiration from lecturers who have each travelled the same path in doctoral studies.

Typically, PhDs are construed as a lonely slog towards a higher goal, but this is a professional doctorate with an unstinting focus on nursing practice. The programme aims to equip us to be competent nurse researchers, but the emphasis is clearly on how we can use our learning to benefit nursing and the patients we serve. 

The first two years, out of five part-time years, are taught and are cleverly designed to build elements or chapters of the final thesis. To be honest, it doesn’t feel like it’s part time; it seems to consume all my spare moments and the amount of paper at home now covers as many surfaces as my family will tolerate.

Mutual support

The surprise to me is that so far it is anything but lonely; in fact the experience of being part of a close-knit cohort is on a par with the best learning sets I’ve ever had the privilege to be part of. The focus on mutual academic, technical and personal support has, with the course content and teaching excellence, been transformative.

Just as well really as I’ve had a 180-degree change of direction on my research topic following some expert advice and a change of role. I’m now intending to look at how robots and artificial intelligence can improve nursing efficiency and relational care. The next four years are going to be fun.

About the author

Elaine Strachan-Hall is the registered nurse on the governing body of South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group and a member of the Nursing Management editorial advisory board

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