In this series we talk to some of our past PhD students about why they got into research, what an ARC PhD meant to them, and what happened next in their research careers.
At PenARC we believe in creating opportunities for research training as an investment in the future of the research community and in our capacity to positively impact on health outcomes for patients and the public. Our studentships are linked to our research themes and priority areas and students receive expert supervision and guidance from our academic colleagues.
Here we meet Dr Krystal Warmoth, currently an NIHR ARC East of England Research Fellow working with the Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care (CRIPACC), at the University of Hertfordshire.
Can you tell us about your PhD project? What led you to undertake it?
My PhD project aimed to advance the understanding of frailty in older adults and its relationship with ageing perceptions. Frailty in older adults is characterised as a vulnerable state, which predicts a range of health outcomes (e.g., injurious falls, institutionalisation, and mortality). The physiological and practical outcomes of frailty are recognised, but the psychosocial processes are largely unexplored and it’s these that were my project’s focus.
I had a strong interest in applied psychology research but hadn’t considered pursuing health research or doing a PhD with the Medical School until my Masters project supervisor recommended the PenCLAHRC (now PenARC) studentships. The studentship was a great opportunity to conduct applied research, and the subject was personally relevant to my ageing grandparents.
What are you doing now? Can you tell us about your current research?
My work is specifically focused on ageing and multimorbidity. I currently lead a project which aims to inform the development of a deprescribing (the reducing or stopping of medicines) approach for older people in care homes with PenARC colleagues, which is funded by NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB). I also contribute to projects exploring care home data and technology, communication between care homes and healthcare providers, and rehabilitation.
What sort of impact do you anticipate, or would you like to see, your research have?
I hope my research will improve the care as well as the health and well-being of multimorbid and frail older adults in care homes and the community.
How did your PhD project affect your current research?
If I hadn’t done the PhD project, I wouldn’t have pursued allied health research and more specifically, research with older people. My PhD gave me a strong foundation and understanding of older people with complex needs. It also allowed me to develop research skills (such as qualitative methods) which I now employ in my current work.
How important was the participation of patients in your research?
My PhD project was heavily dependent on the participation of older people living with multiple conditions. I wouldn’t have been able to do my research without them.
What happens next? How would you like your research career to develop?
My ultimate goal is to improve how older people and anyone living with multiple, complex conditions are supported by health and social care. I intend to establish an independent line of Older People research by pursuing further funding and to master the areas essential to a successful research career. I’ll continue to collaborate with other health researchers and practitioners with whom I’m currently or previously worked, as well as build relationships with other leading researchers.
Would you recommend a research career? What piece of advice would you give to yourself if you were starting again or to anyone else considering a career in research?
I can’t imagine myself doing anything but research as a career. If you are passionate about research, especially applied health research, then I would recommend a research career. Despite its challenges, it can be very rewarding.
Advice that I would give anyone considering a career in research is to learn to deal with rejection and criticism positively. It’s a lot of hard work and it can be very frustrating to not get funded and papers accepted for publication. Coping with these setbacks and learning from them is an essential skill. Likewise, always celebrate your success no matter how small.