In 2011 it was time to bring Speech & Language Therapy in Practice to a close, and I was faced with the problem of what to do next. At a point where some rational decision making was probably called for, I instead took a leap into the unknown.
After many years in clinical practice and as a user representative in maternity services, my gut feeling was that experience of research might complete a circle. I therefore signed up for a full-time Masters by Research (Health). After completing it, I worked as a research assistant on two projects. One involved interviewing a variety of professionals about their use of alcohol brief interventions with young people. In the other I was tasked with recruiting people and nurses on acute hospital wards to complete surveys about their experience of care. I am now 6 months into an ESRC-funded PhD, through which I am exploring practice change in speech and language therapy.
The shift has been a culture shock, and I continue to find academia’s norms, language and expectations somewhat disorientating and in many ways rather odd. However – particularly when you are entering the murky waters between clients, practice and research – it is an advantage to be able to see situations in new ways that challenge deeply held assumptions. Moreover, I have realised that the lazy characterisation of academics as thinkers and practitioners as doers masks the reality that both roles require deep reflection and action. The challenge is in respecting and making the most of what each has to contribute.