Dark Moments to Silver Linings

Like it was for many researchers, the Covid-19 pandemic impacted my study. The effect was sudden and dramatic.

Within days of finally getting ethical clearance and permissions to enter hospitals, after months of NHS and University processes, and what felt like the completion of a mountain of forms, I received an email saying all research in the NHS, other than research into the virus, was suspended.

The darkest moment

In that darkest moment of my doctoral journey, I thought the suspension of my project might bring my hopes of completing a PhD to an end. It was too early then to appreciate the devastating result of the disease, which has since paled my disappointment into insignificance.

I have adapted though and, thanks to the prompt support from my supervision team and the Cardiff Business School Ethics Committee, I began interviewing people who had worked in or with surgical teams but were not currently working for the NHS. Zoom has become my essential tool, as face-to-face interviews were no longer possible.

The number of interviews has been substantially less so far than I had planned. Although NHS research has restarted, the other hospital was unable to even allow virtual interviews, due to the strain on staff because they are in an area with a high rate of Covid-19 cases.

Now I am trying to open up new possibilities, seeking permission to work with hospitals who are able to accommodate my study. Will I manage to catch up sufficiently to keep to something that resembles my original research Plan? Or will I need to change my course if I am to complete my PhD?

Silver linings

Whilst this ‘unknown’ is a source of concern, there is a silver lining to the Covid-19 cloud. Two in fact. Firstly, when I reached out to retired members of surgical teams, their accounts of experiences span the 1990s to very recent NHS work. This has given a depth and contrast to the accounts of how leadership has changed, yet stayed the same in many ways, over time.

Secondly, I am right at the heart of the professionals who tackle Covid-19 head on. I find myself, by chance, in the privileged position of understanding how this crisis has affected leadership in a healthcare environment.

There is not much we could be thankful for when the pandemic hit. I am thankful for this opportunity though.