”i have spent a lot of time musing about (and avoiding writing) this blog. In typical researcher style, I have read the previous blogs, considered the most appropriate approach and reflected on why I find it so difficult to get started.” Dr @VikkiSnaith writes in this guest post.
I have concluded that I am struggling to write because I am not sure that anyone will be the slightest bit interested in my thoughts. But still, writing my first blog offers me an opportunity to challenge myself, to step outside of my comfort zone and feel slightly afraid. My slightly odd desire to seek out this this type of discomfort is part of the reason that I have pursued a Clinical Academic path. I have been in this situation many times throughout my career: presenting at conferences, funding interviews, my PhD viva, participating in national meetings (I could go on). All have resulted in feelings of anxiety and self-doubt but also the opportunity to learn and grow.
I am very fortunate to have a joint Clinical Academic midwife sonographer role (NHS/HEI). This is an opportunity that I have worked towards for many years and but thought it may never happen.
I got involved in research by being in the right place at the right time and taking opportunities as they arose without thinking too hard about the possible pitfalls (loss of enhanced payments, reduced maternity pay, pension issues). I would love to tell you that there was a master plan, but the reality is that my career is the result of fortunate events and very supportive mentors.
Recently, I have thought a great deal about my career, and more specifically my ‘purpose’. I do not consider myself to be particularly academic, my A-Level results were less than impressive, and I am quite sure that my undergraduate lecturers will be amazed that I have completed a PhD (even though it took my eight long years). I haven’t got it all figured out yet, but I do know that I am driven by curiousity, a desire to develop my personal and professional skills.
Interacting with women and families is a privilege and provides opportunities for me to feel that I am truly making a difference by positively impacting on their experiences within the NHS. I am sure that I don’t always get it right, but I do constantly try to improve, and undertaking clinically relevant research provides an opportunity to develop understanding and ultimately improve healthcare. Likewise, I enjoy supporting students to navigate their academic journey and emerge enthusiastic and questioning when they graduate, some of whom will hopefully be our future NMAHP clinical academic workforce.
It isn’t always easy having a joint role. At times I don’t feel part of anything, with a foot in each organisation. I love being part of a team and that is much harder to achieve when few people understand what you do or why you do it, and you are not in either role all the time. My clinical and academic colleagues are supportive, but I do wonder at times whether they perceive me as a help or a hindrance. It can make it a lonely road and I often question whether I have made the correct choices.
Rightly or wrongly, I do believe in making career choices based on intuition and ultimately my clinical role is too valuable to leave behind, it is a significant part of who I am. I feel lost without it. Academia offers me opportunities that are not easy to access when working entirely within the NHS and I have wonderful interactions with colleagues that bring challenge and learning.
Would I recommend others follow a similar clinical academic path? Absolutely. It’s not for everyone (and nor should it be), but if you are curious and questioning and don’t mind being unconformable sometimes, then it may be just what you need for an interesting and varied career in healthcare. And I am hopeful that the NMAHP clinical academic pathway will become easier to navigate in the future.