Colleen’s PhD Journey

RHD Candidate and CQUni staff member, Colleen McGoldrick, has had her ups and downs throughout her PhD journey.

From deciding if she should start a PhD to being in the final stages of her PhD, Colleen shares her story and advice to those thinking about starting a PhD.

My Life

My life has been a rollercoaster of change and emotions. I moved from the UK to Bundaberg sixteen years ago with my two children, husband and four suitcases. With everything in the UK being sold, we could not change our minds and we set out on our journey.

Moving to Australia, building a new home and providing my children with a better chance of succeeding has always been a dream of mine. Being a qualified nurse, I was confident in my ability to obtain work in a nursing position and knew we would succeed here in Australia.

My Career

I have always had many career aspirations. My goal was to move from clinical nursing to a university setting to teach undergraduate nursing students. 

My plan was to lecture for three years and then move on to complete a PhD. I wanted to make a difference for the patients I had nursed and managed. 

I had been approached by my supervisors to ask if I wanted to start a PhD. When thinking about beginning my PhD I was full of doubt. I contemplated whether I was qualified, smart and strong enough to complete a PhD. But I said yes as it seemed fate was calling me. I was at the three-year mark of teaching and this was an opportunity I did not want to miss. 

My PhD

I had a burning question in my head about how and why my Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients chose to engage in self-management or not. I wanted to understand what in their lives contributed to how they engaged in such an important part of disease management. I was so passionate about the topic that I became very excited at the idea of writing my PhD about it. Passion is very important when it comes to choosing your PhD topic.

I soon came to understand that doing my PhD was going to be challenging, frustrating, confidence reducing and inspiring all at the same time. 

You need to persist, be strong, listen, learn, grow, collaborate and negotiate throughout your studies. Know that your PhD is your PhD. Most importantly, understand that you have the ability to get to where you want to be.

My Challenges

When undertaking a PhD the learning curve is immense and the self-growth immeasurable. Some of the challenges I encountered included:

  • The differing opinions and feedback of supervisors and how I managed to review and take them on board. 
  • Managing personalities.
  • Keeping my PhD hat on.
  • Not becoming emotionally charged when I felt that my voice was not being heard. 

A key struggle was with my writing. I was apprehensive to send my writing to my supervisors because I knew they were not as perfect as I was still learning.

The voice in my head made me question myself and ask: 

  • Did my supervisors think I was incapable?
  • Were other students struggling as badly as me?
  • Was I intelligent enough to do this?

This self-doubt is common but just know, if you are passionate, and you commit to a task, you will be able to accomplish anything.

My Success 

Even though I had doubts, I am now three years in, the Confirmation of Candidature is being reviewed, I have changed my supervisory team, I have had 2 heart operations, my ethics approval is under approval, and I am starting to write my chapters.

My thoughts have transformed from negative to positive:

  • I can do this.
  • I am trying my hardest.
  • This is my passion.
  • I will get there.

The journey has been so amazing yet so challenging. The ups and downs come around regularly and feeling isolated is a big thing. 

I have found that by talking honestly and openly to your supervisors, having a buddy to chat to when you are having doubts and feeling despondent, managing time well by dedicating set times to your PhD and keeping a decent balance between PhD and life, you will achieve the PhD.

Good luck and go for it! 

Written by RHD Candidate and CQUni staff member, Colleen McGoldrick.

Leave a Reply