The ins and outs of my summer research experience

I had the most amazing summer research experience. I remember the holidays after the first year, the first few weeks were nice to relax but then they dragged on and I was readily anticipating the return of university. This time round, I had something to keep me occupied over the holidays - and if I had the chance to choose between a long break and a holiday which included researching during the week, I would choose research all over again! Let me share with you why.

Why I would recommend completing a summer research project

When completing a degree, students take in a lot of information so they feel confident upon graduation day that they can put their skills into action and go out into the workforce. However, this isn’t the only option. Research and clinical experience provide an opportunity to really make an impact on the lives of patients, and for future generations. Research pushes the boundaries of what is presently known and ensures the continued improvement of the medical profession.

Photo of me taking my sister's blood pressure – it is always useful to use your family as practice for your clinical skills!

I have always been a curious learner, seeking new opportunities for growth and development, and eager to find new ways of challenging my learning potential. I have always been a person who sets goals and has the future in mind. In my first year of my undergraduate nursing degree, I was already calling the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work to find out how to do research and potentially complete a MPhil and PhD in the future. I actively asked lecturers about the paths they had taken in their studies and careers which led them to research and learnt that completing a PhD is definitely a journey. To complete a PhD I have a few options: 

  • Option 1: Complete my Bachelor of Nursing with Honours and relevant research experience
  • Option 2: Complete my Bachelor of Nursing with direct entry into a MPhil through providing relevant research experience  
  • Option 3: Complete Bachelor of Nursing with 2-years of documented relevant research experience including research publications.

After all of this study, the PhD itself would cover 3-4 years! I think it is safe to say I will be connected to UQ for a long time!

I became aware of Summer Research Scholarships and as soon as the applications opened I applied,to my surprise I was accepted for a project called "Emergency Triage Documentation". 

For me, this project would decide whether I would pursue research in my postgraduate years and I distinctly remember my supervisor telling me on my first day that the Summer Research opportunity would make me realise one of two things; 

  1. That I love research, or
  2. That I really dislike research. 

What I did on my Summer Research Project

Over the course of the summer period I attended the Princess Alexandra Hospital each day from 8am - 3pm, often working through these times forgetting that hours were passing. I had two weeks break during the research period; the first was Christmas week and the second was mid-January on a family holiday.

On Thursdays, we would go to Catalyst café for coffee. This is also the go-to coffee spot for UQ Professor Ian Frazer, internationally renowned for his co-creation of the technology for cervical cancer vaccines - we spotted him on many occasions.

I was challenged at so many phases of the research process - I had to learn how to use EndNote (I wish I had learnt how to use EndNote sooner as it is most efficient when writing a paper or assignment); I had to re-teach myself how to use Microsoft Excel as I hadn't used the program since year ten in high-school and the mathematics and graphing I was attempting was far beyond what I had attempted previously; and I learnt how to write a literature review and article for submission - the abstract being the main challenge.

The major components of the scholarship included completion of a research proposal; UQ Human Research Ethics (HREC) application; a literature review on triage documentation; data sorting, analysis and coding; a written paper for publication; and a presentation of findings to the nursing staff and research officers at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. I am also presented my research at the ACEM Autumn Symposium held in Brisbane on the 25th of May this year, and have applied to present at the International Conference of Emergency Nursing (ICEN) held in Sydney later this year. 

My favourite memories while completing the project

Something I particularly enjoyed was working alongside the medical student research scholars. We were definitely a support network for one another, practising our presentations together, asking those hard to answer questions about each other’s projects that we knew would be needed for assessment, and reviewing each other’s work to make sure we were making sense on paper. I already miss our daily 9am walks down to Starbucks with the research team - *gingerbread lattes were my Christmas season favourite* - and I definitely miss being absorbed in a project that I could see developing every time I opened my laptop.

It felt quite surreal sitting in a room filled with professionals in their fields and working in a team of extremely intelligent professors. I cannot thank my educators, James, Rob and Anthony, enough for the experience and opportunity to work with them and learn the ins-and-outs of research.

I would love to see more nursing students excited and motivated by research and the impact it can have not only on the undergraduate learning experience but in the clinical world. To see what you have worked on making an impact in the field is worth the time and hard work.

At the end of the year, I will graduate my Bachelor of Nursing and apply for a Graduate Nursing program. I definitely see myself pursuing a career in research, perhaps even continuing research in Emergency Nursing. I would like to travel to America and work as a Registered Nurse for 12 months, and return to Brisbane to work on building my portfolio in a speciality area I am yet to decide. 

Last updated:
2 June 2017