This year’s annual conference took place at the modern building of the Simulation Centre in Coventry University, with MSc students, postgraduate researchers and health psychologists attending from a plethora of Universities across the Midlands. As usual, plenty of refreshments were served and a warm welcome was given to all delegates and speakers by the MHPN committee members. It was also nice to see some familiar faces.
Throughout the day, there were a range of Health Psychology research talks and poster presentations. Some speakers presented their work on systematic reviews conducted as part of their PhD and others talked about the lived experience of living with debilitating medical conditions such as brain injury and pulmonary fibrosis. The research was diverse and truly reflected the breadth of Health Psychology and what it can achieve in terms of furthering our knowledge about perceptions and behaviours of illness and disease. In addition, the research provided multiple perspectives of public health and it was useful for researchers to discuss research implications which helped us as health psychologists to understand where we can create further impact for public health. One example of this was a talk provided by Katie Bagshawe who created awareness among other psychologists regarding this under-researched area and emphasised positive implications of further research.
When attending talks, it was evident that all presenters were passionate about their work and welcomed questions and thoughts from delegates. There was productive dialogue between the researcher and audience members which was insightful to listen to. As such, there was ongoing networking throughout the day and it was a pleasure to meet and learn from fellow researchers who have adopted different methodologies and theoretical stances in psychological research.
The two keynote speakers of the day were insightful in providing future directions for Health Psychology. The first speaker, Dr Katherine Brown spoke about the multiple research activities taking place at Coventry University’s Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research (CTEHR). This provided a taster of some of the most up-to-date topics, for example, the development of mobile applications for smoking behaviour change and sexual health advice. The research conducted by Dr Brown and colleagues was intriguing to listen to and it was great to see how psychologists are taking advantage of digital mediums to make health information more accessible for the public. Dr Brown’s work demonstrated the applied side of Health Psychology and provided inspiration to early career researchers and practicing psychologists who may want to build or use such services.
The second keynote speaker of the day was Laura Turton who is a Clinical Audiologist at South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust. Ms Turton emphasised the difficulties that those who are deaf or have hearing difficulties face on a daily basis. The importance of multi-disciplinary teams working for the care of these individuals was addressed and it was useful to know where health psychologists ‘fit in’ within the care pathway. Or, where further research could be conducted to enhance knowledge about factors affecting public members with hearing disabilities.
This year’s attendance to the annual conference was a little different for me as I presented my previous MSc independent research. My own talk was given about the psychological barriers that community pharmacists face when giving consultations to walk-in patients. Although this is an area that us psychologists would not typically research, it was a pleasure to share my work with other MSc and PhD students who may not have recognised the potential of Health Psychology as ‘working across professional boundaries’ in the context of research.
Lastly, the chance to speak to MSc students who are nearing the end of their studies and are about to make big career decisions, made me realise just how important the annual MHPN conference is. As a previous MSc student who had to face the very same daunting decision of either applying for the Professional Doctorate or Doctor of Philosophy, I was able to share my personal and professional experiences of the higher education system with MSc students just as other PhD and trainee health psychologists had done with me in previous years. Once again, the MHPN always provides a platform for all practicing and research psychologists and it is a time where we can get together and share our health psychology interests!
Blog by Deepali Bij
PhD Researcher in Applied Health Psychology at De Montfort University