Professional doctorate in health psychology : thesis portfolio (Whippey : 2018)

Whippy, Nicola (2017) Professional doctorate in health psychology : thesis portfolio (Whippey : 2018). Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This portfolio and the competency folders contain two years of reflective practice logs and demonstrate evidence of how I have met the required competencies for the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. In the form of four case studies, one systematic review and a research thesis conducted over a period of two years, it shows my range of knowledge and skills gained within Health Psychology. Both the portfolio and the competency folders consist of a range of practical experiences of how I have put health psychology theories and constructs into practice within NHS, charity and corporate settings.

The skills and experiences I have gained in this portfolio have been mainly placed within public health but also working alongside the NHS, which Health Psychology heavily contributes to. This portfolio demonstrates my development as a reflective practitioner through a variety of experiences and roles needed to meet each competency. My main role throughout this course has been as a Specialist Stop Smoking Advisor and Smoking in Pregnancy Lead.

A large part of this portfolio and my development as a Health Psychologists is Section C3, (page 109), the research competency. When starting this course, it took me a long time to decide on an original topic of research for the thesis, (Section C3, page 109) and I feel that at the beginning, when writing my ethics proposal, my thought process was much more basic. My research thesis examined the use of electronic cigarettes within smoking cessation and the effects this can have on individuals changes in weight. It explored this by comparing different smoking cessation aids, (NRT, Champix and E-cigarettes), gender, ethnicity (Asian or Non-Asian), eating behaviours and activity levels to compare different variables in their strength in predicting weight changes during smoking cessation. Initially, my thought process felt that e-cigarettes could be a stronger variable at preventing weight changes compared to other smoking cessation aids, despite other contributing factors. However, throughout the duration of the course, I feel that my thought process developed as a Health Psychologist and I wanted to consider the results further. Initially, the results from an ANOVA showed that people using e-cigarettes did gain the least amount of weight over a 6-month period. However, after further analysis using the other variables available, I found that the strongest variables at predicting weight changes was gender and eating behaviours. I feel that this was a big change in my way of thinking and allowed me to find more significant results. My overall conclusion was that women are more likely to gain weight during smoking cessation due to them being more sensitive to changes in eating based on emotion and stress. This means that I feel more confident in this being a unique and original contribution of research in Health Psychology and I am proud of what I have achieved and developed within this competency.

Following this, the systematic review, section C3.1, (page 212), was one of the most challenging competencies I faced during the two years. This is something that was very new for me and I was initially concerned about my ability to complete this and it was challenging for me to choose a relevant topic. However, after hours of researching and some supervision support, I developed the review to choosing a unique topic and varied area of research for my portfolio. I decided to research and compare the varied perceptions of individuals on people with epilepsy driving. This included the perceptions of people with epilepsy themselves, health professionals and the public. I felt that each step of the review process was new to me and I was always checking that what I was doing/had completed was correct, which I feel has helped me to develop new skills. Only nine studies met the inclusion criteria and of those, only one compared the perceptions of all three individuals; people with epilepsy, health professionals and the public. The review highlights the need for more education about epilepsy and how it can affect an individual to all physicians and members of the public who interact or work with patients with epilepsy. Another challenging part of this review was the Quality Assessment tool for Quantitative studies that I completed for each of the nine studies. This was a new assessment tool to me that I had not used previously and I felt initially confused on how to use this most effectively. However, with more research, practice and supervision, I feel as though this is another skill I could develop for further research in the future. I am also hoping to get this review published to increase my list of publications.

The competency I feel I developed in the most is the consultancy, section C4 (page 276), which will illustrate one consultancy project where I designed and developed a Smoking in Pregnancy scheme and educational project. The idea of this consultancy came directly from Public Health, who asked me to target the pregnant women who smoke and decline a referral to the stop smoking service. This gave me the opportunity to work with a range of different health professionals working at different levels, including service leads, locality managers, maternity department, consultants and commissioners within maternal health. This was a new opportunity for me and I was given the responsibility to design and develop the individual sessions delivered to these pregnant smokers. The idea was to work directly with maternity services, specifically the Public Health Specialist Midwife, to deliver this educational session to the pregnant women with the hope for them to decide to try and stop smoking and work directly with the community midwives to ensure appropriate referrals. This was the biggest challenge for me over the duration of the course, as it involved working at such a high level on important and relevant work. Throughout the project, it became a big interest for other services within the East of England, in which I was asked to deliver a presentation of the project and the results gained throughout at various meetings and conferences. Despite being terrified initially, my confidence grew quickly and I was pleased with the overall outcomes of this work. This gave me the opportunity to develop in a way that was not available within my normal role and I feel that it has contributed enormously to the health professional I have become today.

Following this, the competency I was most worried about completing was the teaching and training, (section C5, page 319) as I did not feel I had the confidence to deliver a teaching or training session. At the beginning of the course, I had never delivered any teaching or training sessions and did not feel it was something I would enjoy. I felt that it was important for me to embrace this opportunity, knowing it was important for these feelings to change by the end of the course. Therefore, this was the first competency I chose to complete. I started by delivering two lectures at the university for both undergraduate and postgraduate level students. Initially, I was concerned about the content of the lectures and my ability to teach others information. However, after some guidance and support from my peers and during supervision, I feel that I delivered two effective and interesting lectures to students leaving me able to complete the competency report. Following this, I was keen to increase my confidence further within this competency and I could start delivering training sessions within my role for the Level 2 Stop Smoking Advisor Training. Upon completion of this training, trainees are qualified and competent to support and guide individuals to stop smoking and so it was important for me to deliver an effective training. This was a full two-day course that involved both delivering information and interactive sessions with an online assessment to complete their training. I think that this has helped me tremendously in building my confidence delivering training and I was able to continue this further and deliver the Make Every Contact Count (MECC) to other health professionals where needed. Finally, by the end of the course, I was training other staff members to deliver these two training sessions so there were more staff available when needed. This has allowed me to develop as an autonomous practitioner in both skills and confidence and I feel that it has prepared me for the delivery of future training.

The competency I feel I sit most naturally in and throughout the course of the doctorate I delivered many behaviour change interventions, (Section C2, page 30). Throughout my training, I was regularly delivering interventions to clients who wanted to stop smoking and helping to support them through their behaviour change. Therefore, I decided to increase my knowledge and skills to a different area for the intervention report. I had the opportunity to work with a Child Weight Management Team at delivering a physical activity session at the end of each nutritional session within their programmes. This allowed me to develop the skills and experience needed to work with young children and their families in a health setting within weight management, not just adults. I enjoyed delivering these physical activity sessions and although initially, I was not sure how to deliver an effective session to children, the team were a great support. I am pleased that the outcome of the intervention increased attendance rates and later became an important part of their child weight management programmes.

Section C1 (page 9) of this portfolio demonstrates the other skills which I developed over the two years to become a competent Health Psychologist, including how I developed as a reflective practitioner. The competencies gained throughout the training has given me the opportunity to develop and practise as a health psychologist. I feel lucky to have had the opportunities to grow my confidence and skills as a health psychologist and have engaged in continued professional development throughout the two years and will continue to do this throughout my career.

In conclusion, this portfolio has shown the learning process of becoming a health psychologist by completing all the competencies in the areas of research, a systematic review, behaviour change interventions, teaching and training, consultancy and professional skills. I feel much more confident and competent as someone who has transferable skills to apply health psychology skills and knowledge to future practise and I hope to continue developing in this way.

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