By Claire Morris
As I start my part time distance PhD with Glasgow End of Life Studies Group, at the forefront of my mind are the practical and social implications of this life change and the possibilities for the five years ahead.
Transitioning to remote part-time study has not been too challenging and I am finding balance across my various study, work and life commitments. At the same time, adjustments have had to be made – not least becoming accustomed to the weekly Megabus trip from London to Glasgow to do my qualitative methods training. Persistence and resilience is tested at the prospect of the chilly overnight journey and getting the best seat on the Megabus is a huge test of my ability to think strategically, plan and execute well. Learning experiences are everywhere!
I have been struck by how different the experience of studying now is compared to beginning my Bachelors degree back in 1999. From what I remember we were not really using the internet and I wrote my essays on a word processor. The excellent EndNote training from the University of Glasgow has shone a light on a simpler path to the tortuous referencing and footnote process of days gone by and I am sure Word for Thesis writing and Data management training will hold more clues to increased efficiency through technology. The University has provided some distance training for part time PhD students but undoubtedly there is more that could be done to create a more accessible learning experience for those of us who are not on campus.
As a distance PhD student, feeling involved with the End of Life Studies team is something that is important to me. But the Dumfries team has been welcoming both in terms of facilitating distance access to monthly meetings and regular communications, as well as with invitations to face to face seminars.
In terms of content, my PhD is looking at ‘Total Pain’ in palliative care literature, policy and clinical practice across the UK, Canada and Australia. It is early days as I look into how ‘Total Pain’ has been discussed and how policy and clinical practice have evolved, building on the thinking of my supervisors Dr Naomi Richards and Dr Marian Krawczyk who conceived of the project with Dr Jennifer Corns. The idea of a person-centred response to people’s total needs is something I feel passionate about and I am excited to study ‘Total Pain’ in depth and discover more about the opportunities and challenges it has brought to understanding and providing the care that people need when they need it.
So what do I intend to gain from the experience?
As a 41 year old woman, there have certainly been some questions about why I am doing a PhD now. After many years working as a palliative care advocate, I’m excited to think deeply about some of the foundational concepts behind this field that is so important to me.
Some additional things I intend to gain are: To learn how to conduct research through doing it; To deliver high-quality research that impacts on the field; To learn new things from experts in research and related subject areas; To cut through some of the complex language and practice around research that can feel exclusive, and crucially to share what I learn in an accessible way.
In addition, I look forward to summer camping in Dumfries and introducing my five-year-old daughter to the beauty of Scotland and the mighty Megabus experience.
I aim to be open and honest about my PhD journey so please follow @msclairemorris