The saga continued: Did I tell you about my ethics amendment?

I have previously told you the tale of applying for NHS HRA ethical approval. I described the pain, the suffering and the long over due relief when I finally received approval back earlier this year. Well at the time my supervisors and I agreed that we had been so thorough that we wouldn’t need to go back to do an amendment- who would do that? People who hadn’t planned far enough in advance, people who were not thorough enough, people who enjoy torturing themselves, who have more time and patience than sense. Welll….soon after receiving ethical approval I realised I was one of the people I had sneered at. I realised that I needed to do an amendment to my ethics.

Once I realised (intellectually and emotionally) that I (really) needed to do an amendment I put my head down and attempted to get going. I figured that having submitted a successful ethical application in the first place please surely the amendment couldn’t be too tricky. Well let me be blunt- it was tricky. The biggest difficulty I had was finding out exactly how to do the amendment. I seemed to find a fair bit of conflicting information. And in the end I did more work than entirely necessary (from what I can tell). I did complete an IRAS amendment form and a revised protocol. The IRAS form did need to be signed off by my supervisor AND the ‘sponsor’ in UCL (the joint research office here at UCL). But I also did a few things I didn’t need to and in the wrong order. Here are a few tips and hints in case anyone out there does need to submit an amendment:

  1. Before you do anything else contact the Research Ethics Committee (REC) who approved your project and ask them what to do! I wish I had done this first- they had the most accurate information!!
  2. The HRA website is also helpful BUT also confusing
  3. Don’t ring up the IRAS people – they only really advise on the website and form features etc
  4. Only complete the ethics amendment form. Unless your told otherwise DO NOT I repeat DO NOT edit your existing IRAS form. Simply refer to or list the sections that your amendment applies to in the ethics amendment form.
  5. Check your local sponsor processes too- will they want to see a draft or just the final version? Mine only needed to see the final version to sign it off.
  6. NB: the IRAS amendment form asks for a date and a title- use the full date (including day, month and year and a title that states if this is amendment 1,2,3 etc).
  7. Once you submit the IRAS amendment form on the system this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s submitted – I had to save mine as a PDF and email it to my REC who then acknowledged its arrival.
  8. Be prepared for the REC to ask questions that need a quick response (all via email). I was on leave when mine came and I got a bit of a surprise.
  9. Be positive!!! It will be fine.

I received approval of my amendment last week and am on my way again! Phew. Chin up and keep going. I can do this PhD thing!!! I think….maybe….

Riding the PhD waves

As a clinical SLT working on a hospital ward deadlines were set and we worked to the deadline. I say that but I worked in a mental health brain injury ward and our deadlines often provided us with a bit more time than the general medical wards or even community services I have previously worked in, where patients really didn’t stay very long at all and it was ridiculously difficult to get everything done. Still in all the places I have worked I have endeavoured to see as many patients as possible in a day, complete assessments and reports and get them out when needed. If I didn’t see a patient they would lose the opportunity for therapy and if I felt they would benefit from it, well then I would do my darndest to provide it. There was lots of rushing around, nagging to get reports done and at times a fair amount of stress. Keeping to these deadlines was good clinical practice, overstepping a deadline is generally considered poor clinical practice. It is not within an SLTs (or almost any health and social care professionals) genetic make up to provide poor clinical practice if at all humanly possible.

In comparison (and perhaps in contrast to what you may think) The majority of my PhD has been far less manic. Deadlines have been set- I have a gannt chart detailing the timing of my every move over the four years of my PhD. It feels extremely organised. I have hit most of my deadlines but really if I haven’t, I have been able to ‘make it up’ in other places i.e. I have worked on some tasks earlier than needed and made up time on others later.

Until now I haven’t really felt time bearing down on me. Perhaps this has been an illusion and the honeymoon period is over (2 years into my PhD and that would a be pretty awesome honeymoon!). However I don’t think this is the case- I am still really enjoying it.¬†This just feels like a welcome swell- the PhD ocean is simply stirring up a little. And it’s because I am traveling toward a transition. I am about to start my pilot study.¬† September 2017 is the start of my NHS pilot feasibility study. And I am feverishly preparing myself for this.

Numerous aspects of the work I have been doing over the last 2 years have been leading up to and feeding into this stage of the project. I am drawing each of these pieces of work together to inform and perform for the pilot study. I am juggling the final analysis of the initial stages of my PhD to prepare the training for the pilot project. This feels like an important time. Like a crescendo. Like a peak. It’s actually fairly exhilarating!