Michelle Holmes - Research Profile

Michelle is a Lecturer in Research Methods at AECC University College and Postgraduate Framework Lead for the School of Chiropractic. She is nearing the end of her PhD, focusing on patient-reported outcome measures.

She tells us more about her research interests and her career so far:

Research interests

“My research interests really lie in patient experience, especially people living with long-term conditions including pain. I’m interested in how we can support patients to make decisions about treatment and their self-management of treatment”.

“These conditions have no cure. It might be that something like Chiropractic treatment can help with part of the condition – but that is just part of how they understand and live with their condition”.

Research career

“In between studying for my undergraduate degree and starting my Masters, I attended a really good research conference. I think attending events like this is important for students to do. I personally found them really inspiring and it was during this conference that I realised that I definitely wanted to be in research”.

“There was a professor at this conference who worked at Southampton University. I had read his papers and I was really excited to meet him. I plucked up the courage to approach him and asked if I could do some work experience with him. He invited me to email him after the conference, which I did, and he set me up doing some research experience. That really changed my life. He was actually one of my supervisors, although he sadly passed away during my PhD”.

“I did my Masters in Clinical and Health research. I met Dave Newell, Director of Research at AECC, as one of my PhD supervisors when I started my PhD. At Southampton, you do lots of Teaching Assistant work as part of your PhD and Dave invited me to come and do some guest lectures at AECC University College. I was doing more and more teaching work at both institutions and then the position came up for Lecturer in Research Methods at AECC in 2017.”

Michelle’s PhD

“My PhD is looking at patient-reported outcome measures. It explores whether we can change someone’s back pain, simply by giving them a health questionnaire, asking them about their experience”.  

“Essentially what I’ve found is that this alone can’t alter their back pain, but the way that health care practitioners use tools like questionnaires can”.

“I am coming to the end of my PhD now, which feels like a big milestone after six years! I started it full-time, but went part time, which allowed me to divide my time more effectively. It’s become a bit more of a juggling act now that I’m working full-time, but I’ve made it work”.

“Even when you’re working part-time and doing your PhD part-time, there is some overlap. There’s always going to be days when there’s an important meeting or deadline for one on a day when you’re meant to be doing the other”.

“I would also emphasise that it’s important to give yourself breaks and to use annual leave for just that. That’s key to a healthy work/life balance.”

Start thinking about the future

“Being aware of what is going on in the profession is really important. For example, for Chiropractic students, the annual British Chiropractic Association conference is an important one. Psychology students often attend the British Psychological Society conference”.

“I think it’s taking the time to look into what’s available and thinking about getting student memberships to key industry bodies. It’s looking outside of what you’re doing in your degree and which organisations you’ll join when you’ve qualified. It’s being aware of what’s going on in the wider sector”.

“There’s no harm in thinking about the future really early on and there are so many opportunities out there for students.”

Future plans

“I’m working on two research projects with Dave Newell at the moment, as well as a number of smaller side projects. One is looking at setting up a practice-based research network for Chiropractors. Chiropractors will be able to join this and routinely collect data for research purposes. This will also give us a platform if we want to launch new research studies with Chiropractors”.

“We’re also working on another project that is looking at patient satisfaction and experience of patients in Chiropractic care”.

“I would like to pursue patient experience of living with pain and long-term conditions, as that’s my main area of interest.” 

Proud to be AECC

“I really like working at AECC University College; it feels like a family. In bigger institutions, you don’t really know anyone in the wider University. Here, if you have an issue or a problem, you know who to speak to about it”.

“I know most of my students’ names at AECC, which is really unusual for a higher education setting. As teaching staff, we know their faces and we get to know them. I really like that and I think it’s great from a student point of view too”.

“There’s very little competitiveness amongst the students, the ethos is: we all want to be Chiropractors, so we’re all going to get through this together”.

“I really enjoy teaching Research Methods to students, even though I’m aware it’s not everyone’s favourite subject! It’s really rewarding seeing them develop as researchers. As they progress through the years, things click into place for them and it’s lovely to watch.”

You can find out more about the courses on offer at AECC University College here.

Above: Michelle Holmes