January 4, 2018, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham

Hosting a placement: “grab the chance with both hands”!

This week PPN hears from Tracey Clarke of Virtual Administration about her experience of working with Cheryll Smith, a University of Nottingham postgraduate placement student.

What services does Virtual Administration provide?

Our company specialises in the provision of Virtual PA and secretarial support services to a client base of independent therapists and case managers who look after children and adults in the areas of brain injury, stroke and rehabilitation following road traffic accidents or child birth injuries. The kind of services we offer include invoicing, dealing with new enquiries, formatting and proof-reading reports, updating a patient management database, supporting a team, dealing with case managers and solicitors and the court in relation to expert witness reports.

Why did you make the decision to offer a postgraduate placement on one of your projects?

As part of our business strategy we wanted to enter a new target healthcare market to grow the Virtual PA and Secretarial service but there were personnel constraints and we were also keen to get a fresh, outside perspective. We hoped that someone separate from the day to day running of the business, with the necessary research skills, would be able to identify that new target market, think broadly and come up with new ideas.

And Postgraduate Placements Nottingham (PPN) helped you find the right person?

Definitely. PPN organised an effective selection process and we knew instantly at interview that we must have Cheryll working with us as part of our team. Our instant connection at the interview stage, based on the questions we asked, showed us that Cheryll had the ideal skill set to carry out the research study we required. Specifically, her background in health economics and personal desire to want to find as much information about our research project into Alzheimer’s and dementia was perfect.

Could you tell us a bit more about the kind of work Cheryll was doing for you?

The focus of the project was to explore ways in which funding issues around the growing cost of looking after older people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia could be tackled in the UK and whether private companies are likely to be able to fill in the gaps where the NHS cannot provide the necessary care and input. We wanted to carry out a research study to identify what services and therapies are currently available through the private sector, with a view to expanding our admin support service.

One of the bigger issues our clients come up against is the cost of travel and mileage, as patients with acquired brain injuries and their families do prefer to be seen in the home, in an environment they feel more comfortable. In more rural areas where therapists have to travel great distances to see their clients, travel costs can seriously mount up. So we also wanted to look further into this issue and see if there is a solution to this problem.

Did the project successfully meet those goals?

It really did. The major highlight was that Cheryll provided us with two huge databases of companies in relation to our Alzheimer’s and dementia project, which ticked so many boxes for helping our business to move forward. We were over the moon about it.

An additional bonus came from the fact that Cheryll comes from Richmond in Virginia, USA. It’s a major aim of ours to take the business to the United States, with a view to moving over there, so the opportunity to chat, learn, listen and ask as many questions as possible in relation to doing business in the US was invaluable, we loved it, what a nice surprise!

Given how well it went can we assume you’d recommend PPN to other potential host businesses?

Absolutely. I’d say to any other business considering working with a postgraduate student for a specific research project, grab the chance with both hands. It’s such a wonderful opportunity, getting a different perspective, new ideas, ways of looking at things… it’s a joy. It gives you the chance to meet, learn, find out and use the wonderful skills these great students have to offer.

I’d also encourage any postgraduate student looking for a challenge and new venture working with a business on a new project to register with PPN. The chance to work with an inspiring business and be part of making a difference, making a change, is definitely worthwhile. You get to learn so much, make new friends, and gain experience which could easily open new doors.

If your organisation is interested in hosting a postgraduate placement please visit our webpage for more information.

Posted in Placements