PhD Progress & Thoughts

My Research – The Space Between

By the time this blog post is published, most people should have had the opportunity to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

If you haven’t, please read no further. My framework of Star Wars to scaffold my research project may Spoil an excellent plotline for you.


 

While watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi, an incredibly poignant line was spoken by Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker. That the Force is not a weapon or a tool to be wielded, but that it is ‘the space between‘. Between life and death, good and evil, inertia and momentum. It is everything at once, and yet it is nothing. Intangible.
It struck a chord with me in a way no other Star Wars movie has, and I put that down to both the excellent acting of Mr Hamill, as well as the talents of the screenwriters and director of the film.

So, how does this relate to my research? 

At this point, I am not at liberty to publicly detail* my methodology or even the theories I’m utilising, but like many research applications I am at liberty to illustrate the space between; commonly referred to in academia as ‘the research gap’.

I prefer ‘the space between’, because ‘gap’ doesn’t adequately convey what new research is. New research is What Is Between. Between the Known and the Unknown. It’s a state of learning and unfolding, where existing information is developed or refined. It’s a specific, yet volatile contribution to the way we do things – either as individuals, or as a society. The Space Between existing research and future research is the work we currently do – it exists, and at the same time it doesn’t…yet. It’s intangible until it’s written. Labelling this process and/or state of being as a ‘gap’ denotes a void, or a hole. Yet my work does not address a ‘hole’, it constructs a bridge between two known things to cross The Space Between. There are certainly other things present in The Space Between – other theories, and other schools of thought – which my personal bridge either crosses or circumnavigates.

HamillLuke
Coincidentally, this is my favourite version of Luke Skywalker. Wiser, with a nuanced personality, and a portrayal that suits the idea of a grumpy old Jedi right down to the ground.

So, what is my Space Between? The small pocket of theory that my work inhabits? 

My work addresses the skill and education deficits of hospital management. My Space Between is the collective knowledge of the medical and management fields on the topic of the ideal circumstances for hospital staff to operate within. As a researcher, I collect this knowledge for use in a practical way. I desire to utilise the knowledge at my disposal to improve hospital management, and hospital operations, from a humanistic perspective.

This humanistic perspective – the perspective of people-centred work – includes social movements like Clinician Well-being (#MH4Docs on Twitter) and the push against over-bureaucratic governance of services necessary for the survival of many people (See: The capitalism of the American Health System, and the precarity of England’s NHS, which benefits neither doctors nor patients at the bottom of the scale).
In addition to academic theories on management and medical teams, I keep my eyes and ears open for anecdotal evidence passed on to me by hospital staff and allow my focus to be guided by the needs of those working now. Today.

How will I get people to improve their hospitals? With theory, education, and participation.

I am not arrogant enough to assume that I can do this alone. I will need the help, and the good will, of many others to make this idea work. Like the guidance of Luke, and the assistance of Chewbacca, the Rey of my tale relies on the wisdom and expertise of others to be truly successful. I might have the skills for my contribution, but there are many other roles to be played. There’s Yoda (my Professor) who has seen this all before, there’s Finn (clinicians in the field) who would love to help but aren’t quite sure what’s happening at my end, and then there’s my co-supervisor who takes the role of General Organa…stepping in and preempting every challenge before it becomes a crisis. I’ve encountered my own versions of Luke, Chewie and Poe…the C3PO naysayers that end up being more irritating than useful, and the unexpected blessings that come in the form of a Rose.

After being guided by workers suffering under the weight of over-bureaucratic management that is ineffective and unresponsive, I will return to them with possible solutions and a road-map for the achievement of those solutions. I will offer to guide, teach, and lead the effort – but without the momentum of those working in the system my guidance will become unsustainable.

Research alone is not enough. I will need agents of change and champions of the cause to really get things moving.

So for now, I focus on The Space Between. The anticipation of the ideal in the midst of reality. I exist in between these two situations in the hope that my efforts will propel the target industry into an improvement. So, as they say in the movies, I hope that the Force will be with me.


*If you wish to find out more, speak to me personally and/or attend the various conferences and presentations I’m attending this year. I’m presenting my work at least 5 times around Australia (and once in New Zealand) in 2018 so there is ample opportunity. 

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