Reflections on research – a week of firsts

This is the first in a regular series of posts by Palliverse team members about their day-to-day experiences in research roles.

This week was a week of firsts for me. For the first time as a doctor, I am in a role that is primarily non-clinical. On Monday, I commenced a 1-year research fellowship based in theDepartment of Palliative Care at Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth, Western Australia. It is also the first time I will be in the same position for a whole year (training terms for junior doctors generally ranging from 10 weeks to 6 months duration in WA). It’s the first job I’ve had where it’s my responsibility to set my own schedule, without the routine of ward rounds, clinics, home visits and consult referrals. It’s my first time working at this hospital – in fact, Monday was the first day at this hospital for most of our team. It is a brand new facility. The Emergency Department saw its first ever patient on Tuesday. More patients will be transferred from another hospital over the weekend. Our palliative care team (doctors, nurses and social worker) have come together from various services, care settings and states. It’s a great opportunity for us to learn from each other and so far it’s functioning very well. There is a fantastic energy at this new hospital – all the staff I’ve encountered are enthusiastic about change (for the better) and it is a great opportunity to get things done without the burden of “that’s how we’ve always done it” thinking.

On the “research” side of things, it’s such a novelty for me to spend my most productive hours writing, reading and thinking about my research topic. Previously, research was an afterthought, something squeezed into the hours after work, after dinner, when I was sleepy and distracted. Research was a barrier to specialist qualifications or something to “look good on your CV”. Research was something that HAD to be done, not always something I WANTED to get done. Fortunately, I now have a research topic that really excites me, supportive supervisors and, as I mentioned above, the fantastic energy of this new hospital.

I’m trying to start off with good habits (although if these don’t work, I’ll try something else). The habits I’m trying to develop include:

  1. Writing for 45 minutes every morning (ideally when I first arrive to the office, although as I am in an open-space work area with my entire team, it is more likely to be once they’ve left for the wards);
  2. Reflecting on the past week’s work every Friday;
  3. Setting monthly goals and reflecting on these each week; and
  4. Not taking work home with me (I have ample other projects, including unfinished research projects, to work on in my spare time)!

I’ll be looking for advice at blogs like The Thesis Whisperer and Patter, and from the @palliverse twitter feed.

If you’re a researcher, do you have any advice, habits or resources to share with the Palliverse audience?



Elissa Campbell (@Elissa_Campbell) is currently working as a Palliative Care Fellow, researching advance care planning. Her research is funded by the Health Department of Western Australia (WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network).

4 thoughts on “Reflections on research – a week of firsts

  1. Hi Elissa. Sounds like you are off to a great start. I was also influenced by Hugh Kearns ( in regards to the daily writing: “Writers, write!” A regular routine makes the big writing tasks of research much easier. Choose small pieces to focus on and write freely to allow the ideas to just express themselves.
    I would also add that note taking on references (more writing) saves or minimises re-reading. A web based reference program (such as mendeley) can help with that, but choice of programs is a matter of personal preference.
    Storing the key ideas as they arrive is also a great plan. Keeping a journal of these ideas is also helpful and yet again cloud programs like evernote can mean you can capture any idea if you have your phone on hand.
    Can’t wait to hear how it goes.


    • Thanks for some great advice Michael. I agree that Hugh Kearns has some great resources on his site (which you shared with me previously – thanks!).

      I’ve downloaded Mendeley to give it a try. I requested EndNote be installed on my computer at the hospital but I don’t know how long that will take – the IT department at our brand new, “paperless” hospital with lots of new staff and programs is understandably quite busy!

      I have been using Evernote since last year on the advice of James Jap (gee, you Palliverse guys are full of good advice). Surprisingly, it hasn’t been blocked on the hospital network. (I’m going to have to request access to Dropbox, slideshare and twitter as those are blocked.) Unfortunately our brand new computers have outdated versions of Internet Explorer installed so Evernote doesn’t work too smoothly but it’s tolerable.

      I combine Evernote with other programs like Pocket using IFTTT. A topic for a future post!


  2. Great start to your series of articles E!

    I’m still addicted to my Evernote Premium and have been recommending it to all and sundry.

    Asking the team for a brainstorm for a hot-list of useful apps is a good idea, we could all share an Evernote notebook!

    Thanks for sharing the Kearns’ site Cookie, the site address was missing an “i” I’ve corrected it on your comment and have created a hyperlink.



  3. Pingback: Reflections on research – supervision and deadlines | PALLIVERSE

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