It has been a while since I updated my blog- maybe it’s more fair to say that it’s been a while since I started pretending I was going to keep a regular blog.. Either way, I have begun data collection and I thought it would be useful to once again put down my experiences.
The reason I flew off the radar is that I was fighting the bureaucracy battle and was drowning in paper work, follow up emails and unanswered calls. I submitted my protocol in July 2016. It then only landed up going to faculty in September. Faculty felt the protocol was not grounded enough in theory and in scope, and I had one month to fix it- because even though those seem like very harsh criticisms, it was actually just an ‘edits and resubmit’ process rather than what they call a total re-write.. In practice though, it was a total re-write, and oh my god it was a stressful month. It also came at a time when work was exceptionally intense and I feel like the months of October and November 2016 are a black hole. I don’t remember doing anything except paid work and PhD work.
To make it even more fun, I had submitted for ethical approval on my old protocol, as my supervisors didn’t foresee any issues with it. Which meant I had to RESUBMIT to ethics in November. As some of you may know, this means another 25 copies of your protocol plus countless forms and signatures. I then only heard back from ethics in March 2017, and then had to start the process of applying for ethical approval in Provincial Departments of Health (PDoH). I swear it feels that no PhD student has ever suffered through as much administrative hardship as me (can you tell I’m Jewish- we SUFFERED)
The PDoH approvals were far less cumbersome, with everything online. This was the one light in this dark tunnel. I received approval fairly quickly from some provinces while other provinces (hint.. it starts with a ‘W’) pushed me hard on why the title of my protocol doesn’t include their name. I must digress to tell you that the faculty insisted my title be as boring as possible and include the names of the main provinces. This proved unendingly frustrating when applying to the provinces who didn’t appear in the title.
Anyhow, in August 2017 I had my first meeting with one of my major provinces and started data collection in the same month. ONE FULL YEAR after submitting my first protocol. In that year of waiting I changed jobs, got a dog, found myself again (yay for an identity outside of work and/or public health) and met a colleague (and now friend) who has become integral to my life, career and person. This person has shown me how to take the good with the bad, to trust myself, to not take myself so seriously and to start a meditation practice (mine is faulty and immature, but it’s there!)
Data collection so far has been incredible. Great to be back in the PDoH space since leaving my old job and head office has been so accommodating. I have been reminded about how the world revolves around relationships. My existing relationship with the PDoH meant that they have trusted me and been willing to back my research- which has made everything so much easier.
Finding time to write notes and think has been tricky. I recently started working 4 days a week, to open up a day for research which has helped tremendously. I also created a little space in my room where I can put down my thoughts and findings to both inspire and remind me to do it. Doing a PhD part time requires discipline that I sometimes don’t have but it has been wonderful to realise how much I am enjoying the process despite this (perhaps the protocol write up and approval phase was worth it?! #BDSM).
Our PhD support group is going strong, sometimes with only two of us and sometimes with four or five. This group has become so helpful in comparing processes, supervisor approaches and creating a whinge space. I have also found that all the blogs I read before that said the PhD is a lonely process are 100% correct. It’s been difficult to try and find the words to describe what I am experiencing and thinking about without boring everyone around me who (GASP!) isn’t interested in public health governance.
Today I signed up to a site called 750 words, which encourages a daily writing practice. Hopefully this will mean a more regular blogging practice too.