1. The placement organisation and its contextActionCancer was founded in 1973 by oncologist, Dr George Edelstyn and is NorthernIrelands leading local, cancer charity.
Their mission is saving lives andsupporting people and they do this through cancer awareness, prevention,detection, and support. Action Cancer is currently the centre for breast cancerresearch in Northern Ireland. Everyyear Action Cancer helps save and support 50,000 people across Northern Irelandthrough the delivery of their services. Some of the services provided by ActionCancer are:· free mammograms (digital breast screenings thatdetect early-stage breast cancer)· M.O.T. health checks for both men and women over16 · complementary therapies and pain reliefinterventions · therapeutic services such as counselling,coaching, and support groups · peer mentoring · information and advice on cancer, health, andgeneral wellbeing · education and prevention programmes · health promotion programmes· research into cancer · Campaigning and lobbying on cancer-relatedissues to develop legislation and policy in Northern Ireland e.
g. the bowelcancer screening campaign in 2006 and the no smoking in cars ban in 2010. Theseservices are delivered through the Action Cancer House, where I was situated,and on the Big Bus, which travels throughout Northern Ireland to roughly 235locations each year. There is a total of 82 members of staff/students employed at ActionCancer. The organisational chart I received during my induction in week twodetailed the organisations structure.
Action Cancer is comprised of three broadsectors; 1. Fundraisingand Communications, 2. Corporateand 3. ProfessionalServices.
During myplacement, I worked in the professional services sector, more specifically, inresearch and evaluation. My placement mentor, Caroline Hughes, is a researchand evaluation officer and director of research and evaluation and healthpromotions. I worked with Caroline and alongside the health promotions officersand students in the health promotions department.ActionCancer place specialises in breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most commoncancer in females: approximately 1,300 women are diagnosed with breast cancerevery year in Northern Ireland and roughly 340 of them will lose their lives toit (breast cancer care, 2015). Regular screening and breast awareness are thebest ways to reduce these numbers.
Breastscreening can detect changes which might not be seen or felt during a breast examinationand is available at the Action Cancer House (Monday – Friday) and on-board theBig Bus (Tuesday – Saturday). Action Cancer is the only charity in Europe tooffer screening to women who fall outside the NHS range of 50-70. Screening isfree of charge but costs Action Cancer £80 per screening. ActionCancer began screening women for breast cancer in 1978 – this was the firsttime breast screening was introduced in Northern Ireland. Action Cancer hasprovided breast screenings for 135,000 women since.
In 2015/2016 Action Cancerscreened 10,787 women for breast cancer and for every 1,000 screenings 6 womenhave their cancer detected when it may have gone unnoticed.Fundingpressure is the main constraint on the organisation’s development. Action Canceris under pressure to self-fund (through donations) £3.
5 million per year inorder to deliver their services. Action Cancer doesn’t receive governmentfunding so relies entirely on donations from the public. Because theorganisation is funded through donations it is important to make sure the moneyis being spent wisely.
ActionCancer lists providing proven services that reduce risk, raise awareness, savelives and provide support to people affected by cancer and effectively managingresources and being financially strong as two of their key principles in thestrategic plan (see appendix). To do this Action Cancers research andevaluation department assess current programmes and services to make sure theyare useful. This was the role I undertook whilst doing my placement at theAction Cancer research and evaluation department. Theprogramme I evaluated was the Why Weight? lifestyle change programme. My reportand assessment would help determine the programme’s success and establishwhether it was a worthwhile use of funds.
2. The psychological skills and knowledge that you were ableto applyWhile evaluating the report I was responsible for carryingout data audits/ quality assurance checks, inputting data, analysing data,literature reviewing and report writing. To do this I had to use some of theskills I have from my degree. My data management skills were often used to carry outthese tasks as I was responsible for data handling and entering and checkingdata. My statistical and analytical skills also were important as I had to beable to examine and manipulate data in SPSS and identify and evaluate generalpatterns to see what the data was saying.
Computer skills were essential forall of these tasks. Communication skills, both oral and written, also came intoplay as I needed to communicate any difficulties that occurred and discuss anyuncertainties and talk through what I should do. My written communicationskills were also frequently used as I was writing up a report so had to be ableto communicate clearly and concisely, use good grammar, correct spelling andproper punctuation in order for the report to be understandable. Being able tofollow instructions and fix mistakes were also essential in my placement as Ihad to be able to respond to feedback and rework my report based on Caroline’sfeedback. Action Cancer specialises in breast cancer awareness,prevention, detection, support and research.
The WhyWeight? lifestyle change programme aimed to reduce the risk of breast cancer bypromoting sustained healthy lifestyles, reducing weight, and increasingphysical activity. Government statistics show breast cancer is themost common type of cancer in women in Northern Ireland. Approximately 1,200women are diagnosed with breast cancer in NI each year (nidirect, 2015). Anumber of studies have shown a link between diet and physical activity andincreased risk of breast cancer.
Most recently, Mehra, Berkowits, Sanft (2017)found that following a healthy diet and recommended physical activityguidelines was associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer. The WhyWeight? lifestyle change intervention is based around these findings.WhenI was discussing the intervention with Caroline she told me she was reallyinspired by the Star Model When creating the programme.
The Star Model is amotivational theory and is typically used for job interviews but the idea ofapplying it to health related behaviours was a really interesting newinterpretation and I thought this was important to look into. S.T.A.R. is an acronymfor situation, task, action, results. Situation is about setting the scene,giving context and background to the situation, task is the exact duty requiredby the situation, action (argued to be the most important part of the model) ishow you actually responded, and result is what happened as a consequence(Galbraith, 2017). Theintervention framework was based around the Star Model.
For the situationaspect where participants were getting background or context to the situationthey were told about the prevalence of cancer, the costs of cancer, their risklevel and the impact changing their current diet, weight and physical activitywould have on reducing their risk. The task aspect outlined the exact changesparticipants would need to make in their situation, in terms diet and physicalactivity. Action was the steps participants actually took for example cuttingout sugary treats, exercising for half an hour each day. Action varied fromparticipant to participant and these were the measures recorded. Result waswhat happened as a result of participants actions this was weight loss,decreased risk of cancer etc. the thought behind using this model to guide theintervention was get participants not to solely think about the result (losingweight) but the steps required to do this and the reason they were doing this(situation- i.e. breast cancer risk) so the end goal would be more attainableand participants would have a reason to preserve and motivate themselves withwhen the intervention challenged them.
TheHealth Benefit Model was developed in the 50s by Hochbaum, Rosenstock, andKegels, social psychologists, working in the United States Public HealthServices and to understand why a free tuberculosis screening programme hadfailed. In short, the HBM says a person will take a health-related action ifthey feel they can avoid an adverse health condition by doing so, thinks therecommended action will be successful in avoiding a negative health conditionand is confident they can take the recommended action. The star model approachto the intervention tried and achieve these feelings in participants by makingthe programme seem realistic and do-able. 3. The skills necessary to get a job in the organisationActionCancer are not currently recruiting, and have not advertised any graduate levelpositions in the past year and a half. For this reason, I choose to look at themost recent job advert for the research and evaluation department and comparehow my skills aligned as I felt this would be most up-to-date and relevant tomy placement.
I would meet the first necessity listed as the degree I am studying,psychology, has a major research methods component. The next requirement listed is having 2 years’ experience of working inevaluation, research or needs assessment. My degree is situated in a researchsetting and this is an area I am interested in, however, I don’t actually havelegitimate work experience in this area. If I wanted to pursue this position Iwould have to go about closing this gap and get a job in this area firstly. In regards to the third essential requirement, all the work I have donewhilst studying has been computer based in some way or another so my IT skillsare good. I have used a number of Microsoft programmes over the past number ofyears, including word. I am also comfortable with SPSS as this programme isused often in my degree. I am knowledgeable in a number of search engines, theinternet being the most basic of these, thus using it as a research tool shouldcause no concern.
In regards to the fourth requirement, I have some experience in projectmanagement. When I mentored at Dominican College I managed class charity eventslike the Barnardo’s Children’s Toy Appeal. To raise money for these events Ihad to plan fundraisers.
If the fundraiser was a bake sale, for example, Iwould have to organise which students would bring in baked goods, who wouldsell them, who would make posters to raise awareness etc. This involved settingdeadlines/goals, making sure they were met, designating work to students basedon their strengths etc. However, I have never managed a project in aprofessional setting so I may need to address this area further-perhaps I coulddo so by looking for placement experiences in project management. Excellent report writing and presentation skills are also listed asessential requirements. I have written reports the past three years for mydegree so I would say I am able to perform well in this area.
I would also saymy presentation skills are quite good, I understand the importance ofpresentations and the ones I have previously given have been marked well. The next essential requirement is the ability to work independently. Thevast majority of projects I complete for my degree are solo projects whichrequire me to work alone and be self-reliant, so I would say I am used toworking independently. The ability to work as part of a team is also listed as essential. All ofmy previous jobs have required this skill, my current position at The Fortdemonstrates my ability to this. For everything to work smoothly at therestaurant everyone has to work as a team, this means working cohesively withother members of staff to ensure diners are seated on time, receive the correctorders etc.
The last essential requirement would not be a concern for me; I have 10GCSEs all A*-B (including English and Maths). The first desirable characteristic listed is the ability to applyadvanced statistical techniques. This is likely because the main expectation ofthe research and evaluation officer is to observe and analyse existing servicesand programmes. The course I am currently studying includes several statisticsmodules. This has given me experience with a range of statistical techniques-basic and advanced. The next two desirable conditions are things I don’t have much experiencewith.
I don’t have an official track record of successful project management orexperience of project management, however, I do have examples of times I havedisplayed these abilities in my previous positions. I do realise this is notexactly the same as having an official track record of successful projectmanagement or job experience in project management, these are areas I wouldneed to work on if I were to pursue a job like this in the future.The fourth desirable trait was experience using both qualitative andquantitative research techniques.
Through my degree, I have had the opportunityto make use of both types of research techniques and am aware of how to use thedifferent kinds of analysis associated with each. I have consistently used bothresearch techniques over the last few years in my degree so feel comfortable Iwould be able to use them in a work setting. In relation to the last detail listed as desirable, I have a full drivinglicense. I passed my test a number of years ago and would describe myself as aconfident driver. I do not own a car personally but I do have access to one andto other forms of transportation so I would be able to meet the requirements ofthe post in this regard.4. Feedback from my employerOver thecourse of my placement, I got opportunities to seek out feedback from mymentor. This allowed me to reflect on my skills base and work on both personaland professional growth.
Duringthe early stages of placement, the feedback I was receiving was direct inresponse to explicit questions I had asked. In my reflective diary, I recordthe feedback I receive in week 1 as responses to questions I had about theexpectations of my role, working hours, dress code etc. This feedback allowedme to get a better understanding of the organisation but wasn’t really a chancefor self-reflection.As timewent on feedback came more as a response to the work I was doing, this allowedme to start reflecting on how I performed tasks and adjust my approach whennecessary. I record this type of feedback in my reflective diary in week 3. Ihad been checking data that had been input variable by variable and aftertalking to Caroline, I discovered most of the data had already been put in by aQueens’s post-grad student.
This meant I didn’t have to go through aspainstakingly as I had been because there was likely not many mistakes in dataentering, if any. Based on this feedback I adapted my approach and began spotchecking the data for quality assurance. This allowed me to manage my time moreeffectively. I applied this feedback again in week 4 as I continued datachecking, using the spot-check method as opposed to my more laborious approach.This typeof feedback continued, and can be seen in my reflective diary again in week 4when I noticed some participants’ data had not been input.
Caroline had beeninvolved in data collection, and confirmed some of these cases had deliberatelybeen excluded (they were participants who had withdrawn from the study). Shewas also able to tell me who had been overlooked accidentally and Okayed me toput in the data for these participants. I received positive feedback for thisand was praised my attention to detail. Week 6was an important feedback week. I received a performance review and writtenfeedback via a feedback form from Caroline.
Caroline rated me excellent onevery aspect (see appendix). I, like many other students, have a tendency todoubt myself so this exercise was really confidence building. This feedbackincreased my belief in my own abilities, especially in areas I typically lookat as shortcomings, such as oral communication. From about week 7 onwards I was beginning to wrap up myproject so feedback reverted back to being responses to questions I had aboutwork I was completing. In my diary in week 7 I record going to Caroline toaddress a difficulty I was having drawing up a particular graph. She informedme although all data analysis was conducted on SPSS, graphs should be drawn upon word as she preferred how it looked and found it to be an easier approach touse when displaying data as you had more control over how it was presented.
This feedback was useful as I found drawing graphs on word a lot easier becauseof the ability to adjust how data was presented. However, because I had beendoing my previous graphs on SPSS, my report now didn’t look fluid. Therefore, Iwent back and redid the old graphs to match so everything would flowcohesively. I learned from this to ask before starting because there may be asimpler way of doing things. I was glad to find this out at this stage,however, because going forward I would present things in a way Caroline liked.
I handedin a draft version of my write up in week 9, Caroline went through each sectionof it with me and gave me lots of useful feedback and tips on my writing styleand stylistic choices (examples in reflective diary). The feedback this weekwas really useful because Caroline has been professionally writing for a lotlonger than me and was able to tell me many things I had not been aware of. Ithink the feedback this week may be the most useful of all the feedback I havereceived because it is the most applicable to my everyday life and is advice Iwill use in the future. I then used this feedback to submit a completed report.
Caroline has since reviewed it and told me she is really pleased with how theproject has turned out. References