Nosocomial interview: the abridged version

While I recommend that you read and/or listen to the entirety of last weeks post, I do appreciate that it was a lot longer than most of what we share on here – and a lot of people don’t want to read 4000 words or listen to half an hour of talking.

So for those of you that the above applies to, I bring you “Nosocomial interview: the abridged version”. In this post I’ve extracted just a few fantastic quotes from my interview with Elaine and elaborated on my perspective on them, putting them into the context of the conversation we had. Honestly, there were so many- narrowing it down to this was hard enough and if I included everything I wanted to it would be longer than the original! But here goes!

On creativity in science:

“Science is actually essentially a creative field. People don’t really see it that way, but a lot of it is about having ideas and inspiration and having the capacity to flip something on its head and look at it in a way that no one’s ever looked at it before”

I love this; I love the idea that science is creative. Not just figuratively, in the sense of thinking about things in a creative way- but literally also bringing subjects like art and drama into sharing that science. We’ve almost been conditioned to think that creative subjects and science are two completely different pathways, but Elaine has proven that’s not true and I hope that I can remember to bring creativity into my career whenever possible.

On outreach and engagement:

“NHS is about co-creation of healthcare with patients and science should be about co-creation of ideas and frameworks and sharing it without having an expert in the room”

This is great, I’ve just been reading the Topol review and there’s a lot in there about developing this partnership between patients and the public and clinicians. But I think it’s also important to build that same relationship with scientists- so that patients and public, and even other healthcare workers understand what we do so can be empowered to be more involved in that process. It’s so refreshing to know that there are already high-level scientists expressing this viewpoint.

On negotiating:

“Feed people. Provide wine. If you need something done in a rush offer food and alcohol and people will come”

This was just a fun one that I thought, you know what – this is so true, and something that will probably come in handy for most of us at some point!

On networking:

“Our careers these days are so reliant on collaboration and networking and who you know. We’d all like it to be different, but actually, that is what the world of science is”

It’s that age-old adage: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. For sure, being a genius will get you far, but as healthcare scientists, to get the best opportunities we need to be putting ourselves out there. I’ve spoken to so many scientists who say opportunities they’ve had are down to “luck” or being in “the right place at the right time”, but that’s so rarely true – it’s down to making those connections and making sure you’re in the right place for the opportunities that may come your way. Another point she made was about persistence with making those connections. I’m only a trainee, and if someone emails me once asking for advice about the STP or about this blog, I might just not get around to answering their question immediately and end up losing their email. Not because I’m not interested – because I really do want to help and talk to people, but sometimes they just get lost and forgotten about! So take that and apply it to a fully qualified scientist or… let’s be honest, most professionals – they’re busy people. If we want something, we’ve got to show that we really want it, and it’s not just a fleeting idea where we thought we would test the water.

On Twitter:

“No one will remember the context of that really witty comment that you made because it will be 15 years ago old news and you’ll just be left with the comment”

I guess this bit really stuck with me. The context was sarcastic or flippant comments on twitter or comments as part of a thread. We are really just starting to use social media as a platform to share science and as a tool for networking. And it is amazing for doing that- but it’s a steep learning curve; we have to be making sure that we are being appropriate and remembering that things we put on the internet can stick around for a long old time.

Ongoing the extra mile:

“It requires more fight and more effort than you deserve to have to put into it to make things happen. But you will get amazing opportunities and you will get to do great things, but you won’t get them if you just sit at your desk and speak to the colleagues in your department”

This one links quite nicely back to the networking comment but essentially comes down to: you get out what you put in. There are so many amazing opportunities to develop a range of skills in our specialist fields, but only if we go out and get them- we can’t expect opportunities to just come to us.

On failure:

“We live in a world of failure; science is a world of failure, so it requires you to think that failure is a learning experience. Failure isn’t this horrible, bad thing that no one should ever do “

I think most people still struggle with the idea of accepting failure as a part of the scientific process. But in order to be great scientists we can’t be afraid of failing because otherwise we will never try anything new- and that’s what we’re all about, right? Trying new things is the only way to keep pushing forward.

So to summarise, I’ll just bullet point 4 things that I really took away from our conversation:

  1. Be creative, looking at things in a different way is where innovation starts.
  2. Outreach is important and is beneficial for both scientists and the public/patients.
  3. Healthcare Science is not an easy career path, it requires a lot of drive and persistence, but it is worth it.
  4. Failure really isn’t a bad thing. It just feels like it.


Author: Jes

I am a trainee clinical bioinformatician working at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. I am passionate about increasing awareness and discussion about healthcare science and particularly the routes into the field.

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