In this post, Ashley Ferkol, a recent graduate of the MSc Performance Psychology programme at the University, describes the benefits of partnering with a professional body – the NHS – to collect research data for her dissertation project…
Across any professional domain there are numerous qualities, skills, and experiences to consider when qualifying an individual as an expert in their field. By gaining a more comprehensive and thorough understanding of these factors, we can then better understand how to best train novices in their field to acquire and master these critical skills earlier in their careers.
Through the MSc Performance Psychology programme at the University of Edinburgh, I, along with my dissertation supervisor (Dr Amanda Martindale), was able to partner with the NHS to investigate this idea further, specifically with scrub nurse practitioners serving on organ retrieval teams for my dissertation research. As part of an ongoing body of research between the University of Edinburgh’s Human Performance Science research group and the Scottish Organ Retrieval Team (SORT) based at the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh (RIE), I was able to gain access to the population of nurses for interviews for this research.
MSc Dissertation Project
There is great value in defining the qualities that characterise expertise in a specific role or domain, as this leads to more informed understanding of the key competencies needed to perform consistently at a highly proficient level. Specifically within healthcare, the quality of an individual’s and/or team’s performance has significant implications on the welfare of a patient, and indeed at times, that of the broader community.
Therefore, the aim of my dissertation research was to first understand the key cognitive skills and strategies that were being used by scrub nurse practitioners in an organ retrieval surgical procedure. We then also examined various iterations and developments through a simulation exercise to assess how the demand on these nurses changed throughout a procedure, and the skills they used to adapt to both these events in surgery as well.
Through this MSc research experience, we identified and learned a number of key cognitive skills that expert nurses on organ retrieval teams used to navigate an organ retrieval surgery. From this information, we proposed potential training areas around these skills for novice organ retrieval nurses in order to assist in accelerating their learning around these core competencies.
Teaching and Learning
Partnering with the NHS provided an excellent learning opportunity that enriched not only my MSc dissertation research, but also to my degree as a whole. My overarching interest for my dissertation research was to investigate the cognitive skills that are used in highly pressurised and results-oriented professional domains, which can also have a positive consequential impact on the human or societal welfare. Therefore, this opportunity to conduct my research with the NHS allowed me to do just this within the medical field.
Through this partnership with the NHS, I not only honed both my research, critical thinking and interview skills further, but it also allowed me to gain valuable insight into how the core concepts of the performance psychology are applied in practice. Moreover, I found my supervisor had the extensive knowledge and network from an ongoing body of research with the NHS, that provided another layer of substantial information and support throughout the research project.
In turning to the future, this dissertation research and MSc experience has further promoted my interest in academia and further research. Furthermore, in order to disseminate these findings more broadly, this MSc dissertation research is currently in the process of being prepared for submission to publication. Ultimately, the primary aim in publishing this research is to both add to the body of knowledge in the literature and advance the practices currently in place for nurses serving on organ retrieval and surgical teams.