HDR Career Conversations

Supporting research student career development and employability at UOW

Leave your comfort zone & expand your horizons: Create an internship through the APR program

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Introduction:  The Australian Postgraduate Research (APR) Internship program offers HDR students the opportunity to carry out a 3-5 month research internship with industry.  Advertised internships at the APR internship website tend to fall into STEM research categories.  However, the scheme is open to HDR students of all disciplines.  So how can research students from other disciplines take advantage of this great opportunity?  Here Amy Montgomery, a PhD student in Nursing, shares her (sometimes scary) experience of initiating an industry partnership and creating her own internship under the program – Well done Amy!

I started my PhD with ideas bigger than Ben Hur. I wanted to research and change everything in the world of Delirium Care. I think most PhD candidates can relate to me here. So, as all PhD journeys start, I spent time fine-tuning and condensing my idea.

 

Once my idea was developed, I tested it on a ward in a public hospital. The same public hospital I have work for my entire nursing career. The intervention worked and the results were positive!

THE END…well not quite.

If I had stopped there, it would have made a very nice story. But not a GREAT one.

There was this quote that kept popping up on my Instagram about life beginning at the end of your comfort zone.

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” – Brian Tracy

It was a sign that I needed to expand my horizons. Because I guess this is the same for great research and academic growth- it starts outside of your comfort zone. I wanted to network and to leave my comfort zone. But I was very fond of my comfort zone – its warm, cosy and people know me.

But health research needs to be translatable. I knew I needed to explore a new setting to evaluate the effect of my intervention and I also wanted to experience the private health sector. But I also knew nothing about the private health sector. Nor did I have any idea if my intervention would be transferable and feasible in a private health care setting.

Through conversations with colleagues, I did know there was a current gap in practice regarding delirium assessment and management at a private health organisation. And this is where the Australian Postgraduate Research (APR) Intern Program became my golden ticket. The APR intern program aims to support industry-based training of PhD research students in all Australian universities. The internships have a duration of 3-5 months, with a monetary value of $9k-$15k.

There are already established intern programs that you can apply for on the website OR you can design your own in collaboration with an industry partner. And that is just what I did. I met with a ward of the local private hospital and gathered information about the practice gap and how my intervention could assist in addressing the gap. I worked up some courage and met with the hospital executive (with my supervisors) to discuss my solution to the gap. FYI – that was entirely OUT of my comfort zone and just that process alone has helped me develop some very valuable communication skills.

TOP TIP: People don’t just want to be told what their problems are – they want creative solutions. I think that was my selling point. I was able to articulate what I could do for them and not just what I would be getting from them – a true collaboration and partnership. The APR internship program and government subsidy meant I also had a solution to how we could collaborate on the project.  And so, I was granted a 5-month internship that completely changed the dynamics and dimensions of my PhD (also as an additional perk- the money allowed me not to have to survive on 2-minute noodles).

The internship allowed me to test my intervention in a different setting, develop ‘outsider’ research skills, has broadened my collaborations and created greater engagement with my research. But I have also grown as a researcher, as an academic and as a person. I no longer break into a sweat and feel awkward when meeting an executive, manager, or professor. I have greater confidence in my communication and presentation skills – I can now ‘sell’ my research. I have found that talking to people and forming collaborations is where real change occurs. The APR internship has taught me that leaving your comfort zone and exploring new horizons is PhD- and life-changing.

 

Amy is a PhD candidate in the School of Nursing at the University of Wollongong. Her research focuses on translating best practice delirium care in clinical practice, under the supervision of Professor Victoria Traynor, Dr. Rita Chang and Professor Peter Smerdely. Amy is a Nurse Practitioner with a strong passion for raising the profile of dementia and delirium amongst healthcare practitioners and the wider community.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Amy (and hopefully motivating other students to leave their comfort zone and organise an industry experience). 

Have you completed a research internship under the APR intern program?  Or engaged with industry to develop your experience in other ways alongside your Higher Degree by Research? Share your experience below or even better, get in touch and share your experience through a blog post!

Read other HDR students experience of engaging with industry through internship and consultancy experiences here

Wondering how to make contact and approach industry to develop an internship /or other opportunity?  Attend our Find Opportunities and Build your Career Network HDR workshop run every session

HDR students who plan to participate in an APR internship program must have the support of their supervisor / or other academic mentor and should contact the Graduate Research School.  Students will then enrol in the internship subject RESH907 during the internship period.  Career Ready Learning for Higher Degree Research students (CRLH900) is a zero credit point subject for HDR students and is a co-requisite for RESH907 and ideally completed before the internship period.  Read more about HDR student experience of CRLH900 here.

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