Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cookies and Beer in the Name of Science

About 15 months ago I got involved in a small study, exploring experiences of people who act as informal caregivers to loved ones with cancer. It's been a really enlightening experience, both in learning about the joys and burdens of caregiving, and the process of conducting a study (albeit a very little one -- nonetheless, paperwork like you wouldn't imagine).
Perhaps the most important (and unexpected) lesson I learned was in collegiality -- without which this project would've gone nowhere. Medical workplaces are unfortunately rather segregated; everyone for the most part keeps to their own staff/resident/nurse/what-have-you group. Like a clique-y high school. We even have separate Christmas parties.

This project was the opposite, borne out of a multidisiplinary melting pot. Our co-investigators hail from nursing, radiation therapy, pharmacy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, clinical nutrition, art therapy, spiritual care, and clinical psychology. All people who I'm ashamed to say if not for this project, I'd probably only know in passing.

But together, look how far we've come --
home stretch, baby!
I've learned a couple of things about working with and motivating a team. First, you've got to be an "I'm doing x; who's with me?" type of leader. That is, be assertive and lead by example. That means jumping right in there and doing the photocopying, coding, and envelope stuffing -- all the boring stuff that if others see you're committed enough to do, it'll (hopefully) inspire them to help your cause.

Second, make things fun -- I put a chart up in the clinic so that we could track our accrual progress, with an orange circle every 25 accruals when I'd bring in a treat. Most recently, at the 175 mark, we had oreo m&m chocolate chip cookies.
Tangent re: cookie recipe -- it was just my chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipe and with the last step changed to:
  • 0.75 cup oatmeal
  • 0.75 cup chocolate chips
  • 0.75 cup m&ms
  • 12 oreos (coarsely broken)
I got 25 cookies out of it.
They actually turned out awesome -- I recommend!

And third, show your appreciation. We had a team dinner this week at Situation Brewing, off Whyte Ave. It was really nice to hang out with the radiation therapists, nurses, and pharmacist (I realized I only ever spend time with residents :S) over good food and drinks.
the delicious angry bison burger & Declan's Irish stout
So although this wasn't the most impactful research project per se, it's something that I've gotten far more out of than a line on my resume. Winning.

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