Why I applied for the CLAHRC Fellowship. A blog by Shimrit Ziv

I’m a child and adolescent psychiatrist and paediatrician. I work at the Croft unit in Cambridge with children and families with complex mental health difficulties and am currently undertaking a fellowship with the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) East of England.

I heard about the CLAHRC fellowship last year and immediately felt inspired to apply for it. It sounded like the perfect opportunity to initiate research on a topic chosen by myself, in between busy clinical work. The most exciting aspect for me was the chance to carry out a project about the clients I see every day at work, many of whom have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma.

Together with my supervisors, I designed the research protocol on identification of ACEs by mental health clinicians. On a practical level, I started interviewing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) clinicians about whether they ask about ACEs during initial assessments, including physical and sexual abuse. The responses were very diverse and fascinating. Many clinicians disclosed that they felt uncomfortable asking about adverse life experiences, despite knowing the importance of the identification.

At the beginning of the fellowship, I did not estimate the impact of my project, but over time, I have learnt how much adverse life experiences negatively influence the development of mental health, and how important appropriate identification is (in other words how much this research topic is relevant).

Through this research project, I have made links with the safeguarding lead within Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) in order to improve the training program for clinicians, and also started to attend conferences related to the topic outside the Trust.

Something that has helped me most during the fellowship so far is discussing the project with the other fellows during our monthly meetings, especially during the action learning set groups. I have received a lot of support and encouragement from the group; to believe in my project, become positive and proactive and stick to my plans. Together with my supervisor I have also started planning a possible future project.

Further encouragement to believe in my work was reinforced by something that one of the lead clinicians of the Trust said. She reminded me that only a few years ago, people felt uncomfortable to make enquiries about suicide and that this has dramatically changed over the years, and perhaps the same should happen about the enquiry of traumatic events. Since then I have became more and more inspired to make a real change in practice through my research.

The key lessons that I’ve learned from the fellowship so far are to be very optimistic and proactive about the project; the more you become involved, the more opportunities will arise. This fellowship is a remarkable opportunity to have some time to focus on learning topics that interest you, a fantastic place to network and develop your career.

I would highly recommend applying for the CLAHRC fellowship!

Shimrit Ziv, 2018 CLAHRC fellow

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