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A week in the life of Helen Anderson

About Helen

Helen is a first year PhD student who lives with her husband and two teenage sons in a small rural village outside York. She has been a registered nurse for 24 years and an advanced nurse practitioner since 2005. She is currently undertaking a full-time PhD looking at the role of professional identity in relation to advanced nurse practitioners.

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On Monday morning I take my dog out for a walk and get the kids off to school before heading in to Uni. I live about 12 miles from York, so I drive to campus arriving at 8:30am. I walk down to the Research Centre for Social Sciences (RCSS) building. This is where social and health science doctoral students are based while on campus. It’s a new building where we each have a study space with a desk and computer; there is also a kitchen area and social space. I have a quick catch up with some of the other students and we chat about the weekend. Then I make a start on my studies.

I spend the morning working on my PhD literature review chapter and in the afternoon I prepare a presentation of my PhD proposal, which I am delivering tomorrow. I then drive home, make dinner and help the kids with their homework. On Monday evenings I go to ballroom dancing lessons with my husband - we try our best, but it’s not quite Strictly Come Dancing!


During term time I usually have a Research Methods lecture on Tuesday morning. The module has finished now, which allows me some time for revision before the exam, but instead this week I use the time to further prepare and practise my presentation. One of my supervisors is based at HYMS - the Hull York Medical School - so I am presenting my thesis proposal at the Centre for Education Development meeting at HYMS this afternoon. I get some toast from Park Central café and a cup of tea to steady my nerves, before heading to HYMS.
The presentation goes well and I get some valuable feedback from the group. It is really useful to hear about research projects that other students are undertaking. Afterwards, a group of us agree to get together to discuss our projects further in the next couple of weeks and to share ideas.


I’m revising for my module exam this morning and then meet up with the other first year Health Science PhD students in the Alcuin bistro. We talk about our Thesis Advisory Panel (TAP) meetings, but also have a general catch up, as we don’t see as much of each other when the modules aren’t running and it’s nice to keep in touch with my friends.

I go to a maths skills workshop on statistics in the afternoon, which was really useful. Then I head home to take my son to football training. Later in the evening I go out with my friend for dinner. We did our nurse training together over 20 years ago and have remained friends ever since.


I decide to work from home today and to focus on my PhD rather than modules. I’m lucky to have a study at home and use it for a change of scenery or when I need to really focus on a particular piece of work, as I can spread my books and papers around. At lunchtime I take my dog out for a walk, it’s a lovely sunny day and it’s at times like this that I really appreciate living in the countryside.

Back to work in the afternoon. I email some written work to my supervisors prior to our supervision meeting next week. In the evening I go on the cross trainer as I’m feeling guilty because I haven’t been on it all week.


Time for more revision this morning and then I have lunch with the other Health Science students. I enjoy chatting with second and third year students to get their advice on modules and supervision. I do some more PhD work in the afternoon and call at the library for a book I requested. Then I drive home and spend the evening relaxing with my family.


Saturday morning is spent watching my son’s football match, while in the afternoon I try to catch up with all the jobs I’ve missed during the week. In the evening I go out with my family to a birthday party and then back to our village pub for a drink.


I try to keep Sunday as a family day and only do uni work if I have a deadline approaching. Today we all take the dog for a walk in the grounds of Temple Newsam near Leeds, and call at the café for a well-deserved ice cream. After that we head back home where I help with homework and make a roast dinner. Unfortunately, Sunday evening is spent ironing as school uniforms need to be clean and ready for Monday morning.