Spotlight on Michelle K Jamieson

We hear from Michelle Jamieson about life working as a Research Fellow in SCADR and what her current research involves.

Michelle joined SCADR as part of the 'Health & Social Care' research programme in May 2021, led by Dr Iain Atherton, and works mainly on the Dynamics of the Nursing Workforce project currently taking place.

Her research interests are around the intersection of inequality and health, including:

  • Complex mental health conditions
  • Poverty, power, and welfare
  • Turning research into policy and policy into practice
  • Creative approaches to conducting quantitative research and analysis, particularly centering lived experience and reflexivity in admin data research.

We asked Michelle the following questions to find out more about herself, her role and the challenges she faces:

Please tell us more about your job and the projects you are involved in

The ‘Dynamics of the Nursing Workforce’ project is currently within its pilot stage and is very exciting! It aims to utilise routinely collected data by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), so we can better understand the implications of change in the nursing workforce pre-Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing, such as who enters the nursing workforce, how long they remain, why people leave, retention issues and what are the implications for workforce planning.

What do you like most about your job and in particular this project?

The thing I like most about this job is that it will have a real impact on people's lives. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected our lives in so many ways and it is a privilege to be able to incorporate this understanding into the nursing dynamics project. I also enjoy the overall working culture fostered by SCADR and am especially pleased I can integrate my own thoughts around subjectivity, reflexivity and lived experience and its place within quantitative methodology and routinely collected data. I love that these kinds of ideas are welcomed within the group.

What challenges have you had to overcome with your latest projects? 

Anyone involved in working with data knows one of the biggest challenges is time. The process for gaining access to data and engaging with the holders to talk through 'what giving access to their data' means is an important part of the process. These checks and balances are in place for a reason and leads to considered research that respects the data and the people represented in the data.

Anything you have learnt from your current experience, which you will ensure you do on your next project to make life easier – a sort of top tip to others!

My number one tip would be to sort out a project directory structure in your folders! Especially the folders where you keep your code, or the ones that are connected to your stats programme. I am passionate about open and transparent code that can be shared, so I’ve realised the importance of good comments on code scripts. Without fail I have to go back to something I did a few months ago (or even longer), or have to run through code in meetings, and having a tidy structure along with comments on the code and an up-to-date “README” are the saviours of the day (week, or usually month!).

Please tell us why you decided to pursue a career in data

I never saw myself having a career in data as I struggle with dyscalculia and was never confident with numbers. My undergrad degree was in Psychology and the Statistics modules were my most dreaded classes of the week, but this also made me determined to find ways that worked for me in order to pass. Once I moved into my postgraduate training in Public Health and Sociology I realised the potential of data for answering complex questions. I was also really concerned with the positioning of quantitative methods as ‘gold standard’ and objective (in comparison to qualitative methods) - which they certainly are not, when you consider the people conducting the analysis have their own thoughts and biases that can then affect the methodology. It’s been this concern that’s led me to work with data while trying to bring my own life experiences and reflections to the complex questions often asked of it.  

Please let us know about one of your professional accomplishments

I’d say my favourite professional accomplishment so far was when I was delivering a talk on a recently published monograph (I had been fortunate enough to have my master's dissertation looking at 'The impact of benefit sanctions on mental health and wider austerity measures' published in 2020), and at the end I was thanking everyone who had been involved and invited anyone there to share their experiences. My Grandad decided to come and share his own experiences of austerity and working-class identity to the audience. He’d also brought along his own copy of the book which he’d carefully annotated so he could talk about it with everyone. I was immensely proud and a wee bit emotional. He still tells all his friends about it.

What’s a fun fact about you many people may not know?

I have two, firstly that I used to play in a rock band in my late teens/early twenties and even had a few gigs (I played drums). I still play the drums, but now feel sick at the thought of playing to crowds, so I suppose it was a good thing we never got past pubs and clubs! Secondly, during the first lockdown in 2020 I adopted a dog from Romania. I named him Sigmund (I couldn’t resist the opportunity of becoming a textbook psychology graduate!) and he now keeps me company while I’m working from home.

Finally, what do you like to do when you aren’t working?  

I’ve played the drums for 15 years and have also been (unsuccessfully) teaching myself knitting while working from home. I’m also a big fan of horror movies, and find it actually helps when trying to deal with stats errors! I used to love hiking and even tried some Munros, but the last attempt ended in (my) tears. Maybe next time I’ll be more successful.

This article was published on 03 Nov 2021

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