Dr Amy Irwin

Dr Amy Irwin

Potential PhD Projects

Impact rudeness / incivility on people at work

Can exposure to aggressive behaviour have an impact on an individual’s ability to do their job?  Research indicates the answer to that questions is ‘yes’.  For example, patient aggression, both physical and verbal, has been shown to cause long term psychological effects, and eventually post- traumatic stress disorder in healthcare staff. Moreover, there is also a body of research which has shown that rudeness or incivility can have an adverse impact on task performance and helpfulness in both individuals and teams.  Projects in this area could seek to assess the immediate impact of rudeness on measured performance – in a lab or field-based study.  Alternatively, qualitative methods, such as interviews, could be used to further explore the impact of rudeness over time on employees at the ‘front end’ such as paramedics, police officers and fire crews.


Assessment of non-technical skills in high and low risk industry

Non-technical skills refer to the human factors that may influence job performance, but which are distinct from the technical or practical skills required to complete a task.  Non-technical skills are generally divided into two sub-groups: 1) cognitive skills (decision-making, situational awareness) and 2) social skills (leadership, teamwork, communication).  Previous research has evaluated the non-technical skills of healthcare staff including surgeons, anaesthetists and scrub nurses, indicating that non-technical skills are essential to maintain patient safety, particularly in high risk scenarios.  Projects in this area could examine non-technical skills (or a single non-technical skill) in a selected work or team (i.e. specific work area such as pharmacy, aircraft maintenance, oil and gas or fire service) setting.


Factors influencing medication adherence

Poor adherence to medicine regimens is a widely recognized problem in the UK.  A lack of compliance with medication requirements can have a negative impact on a patient’s health and represents a waste of healthcare resources (medication is prescribed and dispensed, but not utilized).  There are a number of factors thought to have a potential relationship with adherence to a medication plan, these can be split into three broad categories: internal (patient characteristics such as personality, age, knowledge about their condition etc.), interactional (does the patient trust their doctor, did they agree with their diagnosis etc.) and external (is the medication associated with side effects, could they take their treatment at work, did the treatment enable them to carry out their everyday activities etc).  A project in this area could seek to assess medication adherence in a specific patient group, or may seek to assess parental adherence to medication programs for children, or care-taker adherence to medication programs for companion animals.


Impact of interruption or distraction on work-based performance

In 1938 Lewis Mumford, a sociologist, complained that ‘the only place sacred from interruption is the private toilet’.  Many workplaces can be hectic and demanding with daily, or hourly, interruptions and distractions that can require an individual to switch their attention from one task to another.  Within the healthcare literature research suggests that interruptions could be a contributory factor to medication error, or at the very least could lead to task delays.  However, the majority of this literature relies on interviews or surveys to extrapolate the potential impact of interruption on task performance.  The aim of a project in this area could be to attempt to quantify that impact in order to determine the likelihood of error or slowed reaction times following distraction or interruption to a work-based task, alternatively further assessment of the nature of interruptions within a specified area of work could be conducted.