In our latest guest blog we hear from Jasmin Laing who is a PhD student evaluating a newly designed CBT intervention to treat PTSD and depression in health and social care workers. She recently had the opportunity to attend the NIHR doctoral training camp. Here is what she thought of it.
NIHR Doctoral Research Training Camp – More than just a training camp
When I was first nominated for the NIHR Doctoral Research Training Camp by my supervisor, two feelings washed over me. One was a feeling of immense gratitude, to be considered to attend a highly acclaimed camp, and the other was of anxiety.
The NIHR Doctoral Research Training Camp is a camp directed at second- and third-year doctoral students who are nearing the end of their degrees. It is a 3-day intensive camp focused on applying for future grant funding and being able to sell your research, and yourself. For these reasons I was very aware of being a newly registered 1st year PhD student, still in the initial planning stages of my studies and nowhere close to even thinking about future steps. However, understanding from personal experience how difficult it is to navigate the waters around applying for funding, I was eager and curious to learn more about how to do a better job of it in the future.
My experience at the camp was very different to how I predicted it to be, in the best way possible. I came away feeling inspired, validated and more confident about where I was at, than when I walked in.
“I began to realise that the areas I was struggling with, such as trouble with recruitment and feeling like I was an imposter, weren’t dissimilar to the areas they were struggling with too”
A camp of many shared experiences
As soon as I hopped off the train at Crewe and waited for the pre-arranged bus with some other delegates, we naturally began talking about our research. Feeling initially a little out of my depth speaking to third- and fourth-year students who were getting close to publishing, we suddenly began to share the difficulties we had encountered in our research and areas of weakness in ourselves as researchers. I began to realise that the areas I was struggling with, such as trouble with recruitment and feeling like I was an imposter, weren’t dissimilar to the areas they were struggling with too. I felt a real sense of camaraderie and validation from this conversation, and these feelings continued to stay with me throughout the camp from the many more similar conversations I had with other delegates.
We’re all in this together
Another core theme that was evident throughout the camp was the real interest and willingness to help out one another in our own research projects. Being in a room with driven and talented students from all across the UK who each had their unique set of skills, was a privilege, and it was evident how many of us wanted to share what we knew and help one another. For example, I had recently dived into the unfamiliar waters of qualitative research and two members in my team both had a lot of experience in conducting qualitative research. Being able to ask them questions I thought may be deemed as ‘silly’ and get first class, non-judgemental help, was a gift I didn’t expect to receive from the camp. I was also able to impart some newly learned wisdom around conducting trials.
“I can wholeheartedly recommend the camp to anyone interested, even if you’re a first-year PhD student like me!”
Making the impossible possible
The main activity of the camp was to write a fictitious grant proposal in less than a day with a group of other delegates. I was placed in an incredible group of people who all had different backgrounds and skillsets. Feeling inspired, I put my hand up to be team captain and had the task of delegating roles to each member. In less than six hours, we somehow managed to pull together a grant proposal to later be presented to an expert panel. Going into the camp I knew about this activity and was rather scared for it. However, I was blown away to find out how being part of a group of motivated and talented individuals, could make the impossible, possible, and also, rather enjoyable. On top of this, I learned a lot about what goes into a grant application, and also what the NIHR are looking for. To top things off, our team won the best narrative award at the awards ceremony, and everyone survived!
Although the camp was definitely challenging, and we all left feeling very tired and ready for a 12-hour sleep, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else during those three days. I can wholeheartedly recommend the camp to anyone interested, even if you’re a first-year PhD student like me! I took a lot away from the camp and learned new skills and pieces of wisdom that will go on to shape the rest of my degree.
Have you been on a similar camp? What were your thoughts? Let us know via Twitter – @MHRIncubator