Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to attend the 10th International Organisational Behaviour in Healthcare Conference (OBHC) held at Cardiff University Business School, which was focused on ‘Attaining, sustaining and spreading improvement: Art or science?’. I had submitted an abstract for an aspect of my PhD work and was pleased to receive feedback and be invited to present at the conference, though nervous at the same time, and my supervisors both encouraged me to attend.
When the programme was published I was pretty excited about this conference. When reading for your PhD, often the same authors of papers pop up repeatedly, particularly when highly cited, and it seemed to me that attending this conference with me, would be many of the ‘academic celebrities’ whose work I have been studying. And not only that, but some of my friends from the Health Foundation PhD programme; together with faculty from the ‘GenerationQ’ quality improvement leadership development programme, which I completed in 2010, would also be there, presenting their research linked to the programme. Without them I would not have been doing a PhD at all, what a way to re-connect.
Photos: Academic Speed-dating (credit: @cjpope on Twitter); Health Foundation PhD Award colleagues at Cardiff Castle with myself and and beautiful outdoor shot at Cardiff Castle (credit: @emmajonesphysio on Twitter).
Prior to the workshop there was a day set aside just for early career researchers and PhD candidates. This session was wonderfully facilitated by Professor Catherine Pope from Southampton University, who told us transparently, that she would shout at us repeatedly until we did what she wanted – which was just as well given the decibels we created later. It involved over an hour and a half of ‘speed-dating’, when all of us got to talk to a different person for four minutes each time about our areas of research and interest, and in case we needed an ice-breaker – what we were fearful about. This is how the decibels were created, it was outrageously loud! Yet fascinating and fun at the same time, and a great way to put names to faces and a way of meeting each other quickly, and facilitating coffee time chats, networking and reflections throughout the conference. That evening we were also treated to an exclusive tour of Cardiff Castle together with prosecco and canapes, lovely…. a change from PhD Life!
The following day the conference opened with a keynote from Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Assembly Government. He outlined a fascinating perspective on ‘Prudent healthcare’ in Wales describing a health and care service where professionals ‘only do what they can do’ rather than trying to do it all. Other intriguing keynote speakers included Professor Stephen Shortell and Professor Louise Fitzgerald, who both commented on improvement, transformation and change with differing perspectives, reminding me so much of the value of differing theories to help see issues in a new light and to help create new spaces and opportunities for improvement in healthcare, both as a science and as an art.
The conference seminars were absorbing. There was so much opportunity to learn about differing aspects of healthcare organisational behaviour such as knowledge mobilisation, nursing care home operations, innovation and improvement processes, governance, brokering change, submitting to academic journals and many other areas -all also linked to healthcare improvement and change. These sessions were also a great way to be introduced to new areas of literature and theories that I have not yet explored. My presentation session related to regulation and governance and I was delighted to hear about other work in the area and feel welcomed as part of both that specific research community and the OBHC community at large. I also valued the feedback and recognition for my research as part of my thesis which can feel like a lonely and vulnerable way to travel at times.
From my perspective, the conference was an overwhelming success at developing research and researchers and providing a place for respectful challenge and support for a community wanting to use research to understand and improve healthcare. Well done to those from OBHC, thank you for welcoming me into your community, and my particular thanks to Dr Aoife McDermott, from Cardiff Business School, whose research I am building on, and who not only encouraged me to submit an abstract but also supported me hugely through the conference in many, and some unusual, ways.