Let’s get digital…digital…(oh and please vote for my blog!!)

I was casually checking my work email account last week- deleting the clutter that even seems to manage to penetrate my uni email account when….I received an exciting email.

A few weeks prior I was encouraged by my supervisor to submit my blog in the NIHR “Let’s get digital” competition. Although My rational self thought I- the small insignificant slightly tech-phobic speech and language therapist from the tiniest discipline in the world – don’t stand a chance. I figured well what the heck. And lo and behold I have been shortlisted in the category of top 5 online communities! Cue overwhelming fanfare of girlie speech and language therapy squealing….(my husband and all my media friends have been rolling theirs eyes and patting me on the shoulder as though I am a 10 year old with a school merit badge!)

But….I am now on the case, endeavouring to get as many votes as possible! I understand that I am up against a bunch of junior doctors and some amazing bug bashers. But sometimes the underdog can make it. And dementia is an issue that almost everyone I meet has experienced in some way. Their mum, grandfather, neighbour or someone very close may have had it. People are generally aware that the chances of finding a “cure” in the next few years is slim. As a society we need to focus on caring for and living well with people with dementia. My research focuses on just that.

Speech and language therapists are seeing increasing numbers of people with dementia on their caseloads. Yet there is little evidence to support our clinical practice in working with these people and their families. I hope that my research can provide that- evidence that speech and language therapists can improve communication, conversation and quality of life for people with the language variant of dementia- PPA.

This blog has been a great way of sharing my experiences as a clinician moving into a research role and to spread the word on what I am doing. The response has been overwhelming- not least being shortlisted for this competition. This has already spread the word further! So do please vote for me- before the 2nd August when the competition closes:


If I win I will learn lots more about social media and online communities- and will be able to spread the word even further!

(If not for me, vote for my not so hilarious husband who as I write this is sat next to me quietly singing “let’s get digital…digital….” to the tune of Olivia Newton-John’s “let’s get physical…physical….”)

Dual nationality as a clinical researcher.

(Image from http://www.europealacarte.co.uk/blog)


So just to clarify- I do already hold dual nationality. As I was born to a German father and a British mother I hold two passports. So being both researcher and clinician should be a breeze right!? I’ve been used to dealing with identity crisis since some football World Cup final when I was still at primary school (not sure which year or who won – so can’t have been that traumatising!).

However, I do sometimes wonder if being a research clinician makes me a bit of a pain for both researchers and clinicians alike. On the one hand I am a speech and language therapist who has worked with people in the NHS for yonks so I consider all research through these tinted spectacles. I ask questions of my research colleagues such as:

What are the clinical implications?

Is it going to have a direct impact on people and the health service?

Will it improve service provision?

How is this important in the ‘real’ world?

On the other hand I am also an SLT doing research- I have gone to the ‘dark side’ and am concerning myself with research methods and technical things. I am no longer in the trenches, nor on the front lines of the NHS. I am at UCL trying to push the mission from behind, to strategise with the other researchers. This also means I ask SLTs questions such as:

Could you write that piece of work up?

Have you thought of doing some research on this?

Would you consider helping me with my research?

Would commissioners look at that as useful?

I am frequently aware of my ‘dual nationality’. And although I may be annoying I have also realised the doors that can open much more easily with this status. I already carry a title of SLT. It gives me some credence in a health research arena. I have been able to transfer many skills- learning to communicate with consultant medics, nurses, administrators and family members can be applied to professors, lecturers, administrators and participants. I am also able to explore my future dynamically. I am missing my clinical work (I currently have small children and have decided to focus on juggling studies with home and not adding clinical to the mix for now). However I am looking forward to exploring a future where I can be both researcher and clinician. How exciting to have this other avenue of my career to explore- a world of different opportunities.