Remote-working opportunity for a research assistant! **Deadline October 13th**

We are currently recruiting a new 14-month, part-time (3 days/week) Research Assistant who has a background in psychology, sociology or a closely-related discipline. The post-holder will be working on Reboot-Med, an exciting new project hosted at the University of Leeds. Reboot-Med will adapt Reboot, an evidence-based, dynamic psychological coaching programme for medical students. Reboot aims to prepare healthcare students and professionals for the stressful events they are likely to encounter in the course of their day-to-day work.

Reboot was first evaluated in a study of 66 qualified healthcare professionals and students from a range of disciplines, including midwives, paramedics and doctors as well as physician associate, sonography and mammography students. This first evaluation found that the programme was feasible and acceptable and taking part was associated with increases in resilience and confidence in coping with adverse events. Since then, Reboot has been adapted for remote delivery in Critical Care Nurses and is currently being evaluated as part of a Burdett Trust-funded study. The present project aims to extend this work further by evaluating Reboot in medical students.

This role is an opportunity for a self-motivated, organised and ambitious individual who is keen to develop their understanding of mental health interventions and their research skillset. You will have an undergraduate degree or masters degree in psychology, sociology or a closely related discipline. You will have good inter-personal skills and enjoy building and maintaining positive working relationships. You will also be proficient in the management, storage and analysis of research data.

To find out more about Reboot-Med, please see here. You can also read a description of the intervention in the paper reporting its first evaluation here. To apply for the post, follow this link. Please note, the deadline is October 13th. Interviews will be via Teams or Zoom on October 27th. If you have any questions about the role, please contact me at j.johnson@leeds.ac.uk.

Five ways ‘Sound of Metal’ is misleading: Interview with Dr Dalia Tsimpida

Sound of Metal was released to rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. It scores 97% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, 90% from audiences and was described as ‘astonishing’ and ‘sublime’ by Mark Kermode in his 5* review to the Guardian. The film has since scooped multiple industry prizes including two Oscars and a BAFTA Award. The plot centres on Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a drummer in an avant-metal band called Blackgammon and his partner Lou (Olivia Cooke) who is also the band’s guitarist and singer. The opening of the film focuses on their touring lifestyle, immersing us in the loud fog of their gigs and the quiet mornings spent in their RV. Then, quite suddenly, we step with Ruben into his hearing loss. The film’s sound editing allows us to experience the muffled noises that the character is hearing and to understand his stress and frustration as he tries to clear his sinuses, hopeful that this is just a temporary problem. This is the jumping-off point for the rest of the story, which follows Ruben as he tries to adjust to life without sound.

I loved Sound of Metal. The performances were convincing, the sound editing created an immersive experience and the plot was gripping. It is rare for films on disability to break through, so it was also a welcome change to Prime’s usual offerings. I did have some questions, though: aspects of the film that jarred and didn’t ring true to my experience as a healthcare professional and a psychologist. To explore these queries with someone who really knows about this stuff, I reached out to Dr Dalia Tsimpida. Dr Tsimpida is a Chartered Psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Manchester who is an expert in audiology and health policy. She is currently leading the PLACE study into hearing loss prevalence in the UK, and has previously published several studies in this area. Dr Tsimpida became interested in hearing loss through her previous occupation as an Aircraft Weapons Technician. During her work, she and her colleagues were exposed to high levels of noise but many chose not to protect their hearing, with some experiencing significant hearing loss at an early age. When I spoke with her, Dr Tsimpida was highly sceptical about Sound of Metal, highlighting five misleading inaccuracies in its portrayal:

  1. Hearing loss is usually gradual, not sudden like Ruben’s.

“Hearing loss nearly always develops gradually and people don’t see it as a dramatic health problem” Dr Tsimpida explained. “In fact, on average people persevere with declining hearing for approximately 10 years before they seek help and take up a hearing aid.” Dr Tsimpida also highlighted that it is usually specific pitches or frequencies which are lost before loudness or decibels become a concern. “This harder to detect yourself” she said, “because the frequencies unaffected in the range of the average human speech (see image below) appear pure and clear”.

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speech_banana

  1. Sudden hearing loss would not result from over-exposure to loud noise.

“In the film, there is no explanation of what caused Reuben’s hearing loss” Dr Tsimpida observed, “and the cumulative effect of several risk factors such as noise exposure wouldn’t lead to a sudden hearing loss like this.” Dr Tsimpida instead suggested that hearing deterioration is a lifelong process. A hearing loss event such as the one shown in the film would be considered an acute “emergency”, and would most likely have a specific and identifiable cause.

  1. Hearing loss diagnoses do not occur on the spot.

In Sound of Metal, Ruben goes to a pharmacist who immediately refers him to an audiologist who then diagnoses him and gives him a long-term prognosis, all within the same day. “This doesn’t happen. It’s so misleading” Dr Tsimpida said. “It takes a lot of time for the problem even to be acknowledged and identified. This usually happens in primary care, and then there’s a referral to secondary care. It takes some months for sure. Then, after an intervention such as a hearing aid, there are follow ups with the audiologist, to ensure that the hearing aids are working at the right levels by completing real ear measurements”.

  1. Support for hearing loss is easy to access and doesn’t involve living in a commune.

In the film, we see Ruben drive out to an isolated spot in the countryside where he joins a commune-style community for the deaf. The purpose of the community is about supporting deaf people and integrating those with new hearing loss into the Deaf community. “I am not aware of any communities like this”, Dr Tsimpida responded. “There are communities known as ‘Deaf Clubs’ but these do not operate as communes and are primarily made up of people who are born deaf and who communicate with Sign Language. They are not designed to accept people who have suddenly become deaf and need supporting.” Dr Tsimpida was also concerned that this portrayal would detract from the wealth of support that is available in the general community. She said, “For example, the National Association for Deafened People in the UK is a hard of hearing community which brings together people with different levels of hearing loss and different communication needs. Members learn of different support available, such as lip-speaking, sign supported language, speech to text reporting (real time captioning) and assistive listening devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, whatever works for them.”

  1. People are extensively prepared and supported for receiving a Cochlear Implant

Sound of Metal shows Ruben waking up from his Cochlear Implant operation, apparently unaware that it involved the by-passing of his ear canal and surprised by his total deafness. He then seemed further surprised when the implant was activated and he couldn’t immediately understand the sounds he was hearing. “In reality, there is a whole process before someone gets a Cochlear Implant” Dr Tsimpida explained. “They meet with other Cochlear Implant users and learn from them what will happen. The Hearing Loss Association of America has also responded to this in their statement. Afterwards, there is activity therapy and psychological therapy to help individuals to gradually become used to it. It’s not like going to the dentist!!”

Despite all this, Dr Tsimpida suggested there was one surprisingly accurate aspect of Sound of Metal. This was its portrayal of a strong ideological difference between Deaf communities and the use of Cochlear Implants, which I thought must have been exaggerated. “Yes, this can happen” she said. “Being a member of Deaf Communities means rejecting the view that deafness is an impairment. They have their own language and they do not feel that they lack anything. They do not feel they need to be fixed. They can even be offended by people who think that their cultural identity is not enough, and that they should rehabilitate their hearing.” In fact, Dr Tsimpida thought that Joe’s (Paul Raci) polite rejection of Ruben following his Cochlear Implant operation is an accurate representation of the reality.

Unsurprisingly, overall, Dr Tsimpida said she was disappointed with the film. “They approached the topic in a black and white way – he had to join either the Deaf community or receive a Cochlear Implant – and both sides were presented inaccurately.”

Primarily, Dr Tsimpida felt the film was a wasted opportunity to highlight truths about hearing loss and to tell people how they can protect their hearing. “There is a stigma that hearing loss is something that happens only to older people. However, my research suggests that hearing loss is closely related to lifestyle, rather than just age.  Hearing loss is largely preventable while young and it can also be increased by unhealthy lifestyles like poor diet, smoking, and chronic exposure to high intensity sound. The World Health Organization currently estimates that over 1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe personal use of portable music devices! I would have liked the film to recommend things that young people could do to prevent their health.”

Remote-working opportunity for a psychological therapist! **DEADLINE JUNE 6th**

We are currently advertising a new 6-month, part-time post for a Clinical Psychologist, CBT Therapist or a CBT-proficient Psychotherapist. The post-holder will be working on the exciting new Reboot (Recovery Boosting Coaching Programme) project hosted at the Bradford Institute for Health Research. Reboot will adapt an innovative, pro-active psychological intervention which aims to prepare healthcare professionals and students for the stressful events which they are likely to encounter as part of their work.

Previously, the Reboot intervention was delivered to a range of healthcare professionals and students including trainee doctors, midwives and paramedics. The evaluation of this work indicated that participants found it relevant and useful and showed subsequent increases in psychological resilience and confidence in coping with adverse healthcare events. However, this previous work was carried out before the COVID pandemic. The current project has been funded by the Burdett Trust as part of their work to support nurses in the wake of the pandemic. It will adapt the intervention for suitability for Critical Care Nurses and for entirely online delivery.

This role is an opportunity for a self-motivated, creative and enthusiastic psychological therapist to contribute to the development of a new intervention. It would particularly suit therapists who enjoy working independently and who are interested in research. Due to the online nature of the intervention, the successful candidate will have the option to work entirely remotely if preferred, so there is no need to relocate. The post is funded at 60% FTE (3 days per week) but hours will need to be flexible to adapt to the availability of Critical Care Nurses.

To find out more about Reboot, please see here. You can also read a description of the intervention in the paper reporting its evaluation here. Finally, to apply for the post, follow this link. Please note, the deadline is June 6th. Interviews will be via Zoom on June 17th. If you have any questions about the role, please contact me at j.johnson@leeds.ac.uk.

Come and work with me! **DEADLINES IN APRIL**

I am excited to announce that I am currently recruiting two new researchers for two new projects: Reboot and INDIRA COACH. Reboot is hosted by the Bradford Institute for Health Research at Bradford Royal Infirmary and aims to adapt and test a psychological coaching intervention designed to prepare and support Critical Care nurses for the stressful events they encounter during their work. INDIRA COACH is hosted by the University of Leeds and aims to adapt and evaluate a Communication Coaching intervention for sonographers.

The researcher on the Reboot project will be a Senior Research Fellow appointed at an NHS Band 7. The role is full-time and fixed-term for 12 months. The post-holder will take a lead role in designing and delivering the project, working closely with IT specialists to create the on-line version of the intervention and the Psychological Therapist(s) recruited to deliver the intervention. The successful candidate will work closely with various stakeholders including: the senior leadership team within the West Yorkshire Critical Care Network, nursing staff and senior nurses across the network Trusts. For more information about the project, see here. For more information about the role and to apply, please see here. Please note, the deadline for applications for this post is 18th April 2021.

The researcher on the INDIRA COACH project will be a Research Associate appointed at a University of Leeds Grade 6. The role is part-time (60% or 3 days a week) and fixed-term for 12 months. The successful candidate will help with participant recruitment, coordination with NHS research sites, gaining ethical and research approvals, data collection (including conducting qualitative interviews) and data analysis. The post-holder will also contribute to day-to-day decisions to facilitate efficient progress of the research. They will participate in research discussions and preparation of reports for peer-reviewed publication and other relevant forms of output. For more information about the project, see here. For more information about the role and to apply, see here. Please note the deadline for applications for this post is 22nd April 2021.

How to land your first Assistant Psychologist post: Ten top tips

Assistant Psychologists provide clinical support under the guidance and supervision of a qualified Clinical Psychologist. The role can vary significantly depending on the service that the Assistant Psychologist is working in and the population they are working with: while some may be largely involved in delivering direct interventions and group work in inpatient ward settings, others may spend more of their time supporting audits or research. Assistant Psychologist roles are pitted at Band 4 or Band 5 on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scales and a general requirement for most posts is that applicants hold an undergraduate psychology degree which is recognised by the British Psychological Society.

While other jobs can also help aspiring Clinical Psychologists to gain the experience they need, Assistant Psychologist roles are often regarded as a first major step on the route to becoming a Clinical Psychologist and competition can be fierce. Dr Karen Hardwick, a Principal Clinical Psychologist I spoke to, told me that their most recent Assistant Psychologist post was open for just a week, in which time they received a total of 64 applications. Similarly, Dr Christopher Taylor*, a Clinical Lead and Principal Clinical Psychologist I spoke to, said they received 87 applications in 2 days for their most recently advertised Assistant Psychologist role. Despite the fierce competition, both Dr Hardwick and Dr Taylor told me that many of the applicants made some simple mistakes that could have easily been addressed. They also suggested there were some clear things that marked out the stronger applicants from those who were unlikely to be shortlisted. Here I summarise some of these tips to help you bag that first coveted Assistant Psychologist (AP) post:

  1. Gain experience of working in a research or mental health setting. “All seven applicants who we shortlisted had experience of working either in research (in a Research Assistant post) or in a mental health setting”, Dr Hardwick told me. You can gain this experience through taking support worker roles in the NHS or applying for Research Assistant roles in either a university or research institute setting. Sign up for job alerts with NHS jobs and jobs.ac.uk. You can also sign up with agencies for temporary work in support worker roles, such as Pulse or approach individual NHS trusts to register for bank shifts.Untitled design (1)
  2. Read the job description and show an interest in that specific job. You may find that you are applying for a large number of Assistant Psychologist posts and truthfully, you may not mind which specific service you get your first job in. However, to have a successful application, you will need to show an interest in that specific job. As Dr Hardwick said, “Successful candidates had clearly written the job description and were applying their previous experience and learning to the particular role we were advertising”. Read the job description in order to understand 1) the type of work the service undertakes, 2) the nature of the population you will be working with and 3) the specific tasks you will be expected to undertake. Then, tailor your application to these factors. This will convey an interest and enthusiasm in the role and will help convince your prospective employers that you have accurate expectations of the work you will be undertaking. It will also help ensure that you don’t waste your time applying for a job that you wouldn’t enjoy. Similarly, before you attend your interview, find information about the wider organisation that the service is a part of and consider questions you may have about how the service relates to this wider organisation. For example, where does it receive its referrals from? Are there any relevant national policies or initiatives which may impact the service or how it works? It may also be helpful to search for information about the people who will be interviewing you to understand their role within the organisation and their interests. Dr Taylor said “If you have been shortlisted for interview, a further way to demonstrate your interest in the post is to contact the appointing manager via email and arrange a time for an informal conversation about the post. It gives you a chance to get sense of the context of the post and other factors which might not be in the advert or job description. It is also a chance ‘sell’ your existing experience in advance of coming for interview”.
  3. Show the relevance of your previous experience. When writing your application, read the job specification and aim to meet all the criteria in your responses. You will need to show that you meet all the essential criteria to be shortlist-able; showing that you meet as many ‘desirable’ criteria as possible will give you the best shot at standing out. As Dr Hardwick said, “Write your application in such a way that the person reading it doesn’t need to read between the lines to work out the skills you have. If there is something specific in the job advert which isn’t generic – such as conducting cognitive assessments – be transparent about your ability to undertake these. If you haven’t done the specific thing before, explain how you can draw on your previous experience in order to be able to manage this”. Dr Taylor said, “A significant number of NHS trusts now use the ‘trac’ jobs software. When undertaking shortlisting, the online system insists we score each application against each person specification criteria advertised as part of the post, so it is important that applicants make the relevance of their experience very clear”. In the interview, when answering questions, consider your relevant previous experience, refer to it and show how you would draw on this to tackle the challenge at hand.Untitled design (2)
  4. Communicate a sense of your personality. It is likely that the people who shortlist the applications for interview and who then subsequently conduct the interviews will be the same people who will be supervising you and working with you. They will be keen to hire someone that they think would be good to work with. As Dr Hardwick highlighted, “It’s important to convey yourself as someone who can fit into a team”. So in both the application and the interview show that you have good interpersonal skills. In the application, highlight work experiences that have enabled you to develop skills in communication, team-working and problem-solving and in the interview, show that you are personable, polite, friendly and able to respond to questions in a balanced way. For their most recent Assistant Psychologist post, Dr Hardwick said “The successful candidate managed to convey a sense of their personality by talking about how their experiences in other areas – hospitality and children’s work – had helped develop their communication skills and their ability to relate to a range of groups and populations”.
  5. Consider the structure and flow of your application. As an Assistant Psychologist, you will undertake a significant amount of written work – whether this is typing emails, completing letters, contributing to assessments or drafting sections of reports. For this reason, your prospective employers will be keen to see that you are able to complete written work to a high standard, and your first opportunity to show this will be in your application. As Dr Hardwick recommended, “Avoid repeating yourself or rewording the same thing. Structure your application and be clear in your writing style”. Dr Taylor suggested, “Subheadings in the main supporting statement can help break up longer, more dense text.”
  6. Proof-read your application. A common mistake highlighted by both Dr Hardwick and Dr Taylor related to typos and mistakes in applications. Your application is your first opportunity to make a good impression and basic errors can indicate a lack of attention to detail. Prospective employers may be concerned that you may carry this approach into the written work you complete in your job. A simple way to address this is to proof-read your application before you hit ‘submit’ or to ask someone else to do this for you. Dr Taylor said “NHS Jobs will let you print a full copy of your application before you submit, so this is a good chance to see what the shortlister will be working from when you have hit submit and to catch any formatting, spelling issues or typos”.
  7. Take a positive approach towards probing questions in the interview. During your interview you may find that you are asked follow-up questions once you have provided your initial response to the main question. If this happens, view it as a positive opportunity to provide more information. Remember that many NHS interviews use a scoring system: each answer is provided a certain number of points from 1 (Poor), 2 (Competency Development Need), 3 (Good) 4 (Excellent). Each question you are asked tackles a specific competency (e.g. personal development). Most likely, the panel is offering you the opportunity to boost your score on that particular question. As Dr Hardwick said, “Be open to interviewer’s curiosity – if they ask a follow-up question then they may suspect you have the information you want, but haven’t revealed it yet.”Untitled design (3)
  8. If the panel isn’t friendly, don’t panic: you don’t have to take the job. When looking for your first Assistant Psychologist post, you may feel under pressure to take the first thing which is offered to you, and in truth, this is generally a positive expectation to have: it may take a few shots before you are able to land an AP role and being fussy won’t speed things up. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that once you finally bag a job, you will actually have to do it. If you find in the interview that the panel seem rude, unpleasant or you suspect there are some negative workplace dynamics at play, don’t panic: you don’t have to take the job. Remember that your own wellbeing is more important than the speed of your career progression. As Dr Taylor said “I turned down the offer of an Assistant Psychologist job once, when the lead interviewer was openly rude to me at the interview. I later learned that he had a reputation for such behaviour. I was glad to have trusted my instincts, even though it took a further three months to secure another AP post, in a much friendlier and more supportive department.”
  9. Keep your composure if it doesn’t work out. If you make it to interview but realise the job is not for you or if you are called and told that you have not been successful, don’t be rude. Clinical Psychology is a fairly small world: there are only around 12,000 in the whole of the UK. There is a good chance you may meet your prospective employers again in another setting or may even find the same people are on an another interview panel you are called to. As such, take the long view and remember that there will be other opportunities in the future. Aim to maintain a positive professional relationship as it could well pay off in the future. Furthermore, if you are called to interview but learn you have not been successful, you can use this as a learning opportunity. As Dr Taylor said: “If you are able to get some feedback on your performance, ask if you were ‘appointable’ – this is whether you performed well enough at interview to be offered the post, but another applicant gave stronger answers on the day. Where you had answers which weren’t appointable (i.e., scored 1/Poor), these would be the areas to focus on for improvement next time.”
  10. Consider other ways of boosting your CV. If you find that you are applying for numerous posts and following the tips above, but having little success, it may be worth reviewing your CV and seeing if there are ways that you could boost your overall experience. If you have completed an undergraduate degree but do not have a Master’s degree, this may be one thing worth considering. As Dr Hardwick said “All seven of our shortlisted applicants and also those on the reserve list had a Master’s degree”. Alternatively, it may be worth considering completing some voluntary work to increase your experiences in areas you have yet to explore, such as with different populations (e.g., with children or young adults, with individuals with learning disabilities, or with older adults) or in research, if your previous work has mainly been more clinically-focused. As Dr Taylor said “A nursing assistant or support worker post can be very valuable initial experience. The roles themselves can be very rewarding, I did one for 12 months after graduating and it helped me secure my first assistant post. Working in a non-psychology healthcare role, gives you a clear sense of how psychology is viewed by multi-disciplinary team colleagues, and this lens becomes more and more useful as you progress in your career.”

*I happen to be married to Christopher Taylor. It improved my chances of a lockdown interview!

Please note that unfortunately I am unable to offer personalised career advice.