A student who interrupted her PhD studies to help as a nurse at the height of the pandemic will be rewarded for her academic achievements at graduation.
Health visitor Dr Jo Johnson came out of clinical practice to do her degree, but was motivated to return to the NHS frontline to work on Covid wards. Later she combined work as a Covid contact tracer for Public Health England with her PhD, which took nearly five years to complete.
“I’m overjoyed to be graduating,” said the 51-year-old, of Worcester. “The sense of achievement I feel at completing my PhD is unparalleled. I have learnt so many new skills that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn if I hadn’t done a PhD.”
Jo, a qualified midwife for over 25 years and a qualified health visitor since 2011, won a competitive University of Worcester studentship, co-funded by Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, to understand perinatal mental healthcare referral decisions among midwives and health visitors.
However, mid-way through she returned to work as a nurse on covid wards in various hospitals. During the final write-up stage of her degree, she was working as a health visitor alongside her research. Jo’s dedication was rewarded with the ‘Best academic poster presentation’ award at the Community Practitioners' & Health Visitors' Association annual conference in 2019 and she was also selected to present her research at the 2020Maternity and Midwifery Festival conference.
As a mature student and mother-of-three, Jo’s experience was at times tough. “I found doing a PhD challenging, relentless and overwhelming at times,” said the former Blessed Edward Oldcorne High School pupil. “It involved an insane amount of work and there were many times that I felt like giving up! Doing a PhD later in life brings its own challenges; I had a family and home to run, children to look out for (even the grown-up ones!), personal and family illnesses, coping with the menopause and an aging mother… the list goes on. However, I persevered and I’m so glad I did. It was worth all the effort.
“The University of Worcester is a very friendly place to study. There are excellent support services available for students if needed. I was extremely fortunate to have had a very knowledgeable and experienced supervisory team who supported and guided me throughout and helped me produce a thesis I am really proud of.”
She is currently working as a health visitor in Bromsgrove and in the process of writing an article about her research.