2020 has been a really challenging year for everyone. After the initial worry of COVID-19 was over I then started to think about what I would do while we waited for the pandemic to be over.
The government advised those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to shield and protect ourselves from the virus. Shielding meant that we basically had to shut ourselves away from the world until it was deemed safe for us to enter society again.
Since having to reduce my hours at work and then give up work I have thrown myself into doing patient and public involvement work. So when I was told to shield I was worried about what I would do. This meant I could no longer go and speak to researchers, attend meetings for research planning and patient advisory groups. So much of what I did relied on face to face contact. There are some elements of PPI which are done remotely such as reviewing patient information sheets or questionnaires but that really is it.
Naturally I was concerned but I think the pandemic has been positive for PPI in a way as it has opened up different ways of communicating which I think potentially might help researchers do more PPI as it is far easy to schedule a zoom meeting than a face to face as you do not need to worry about travel, booking a room, refreshments and then accommodations your group members might need.
One thing I do find is that you miss out on the natural networking you can do before attending a meeting as there is often coffee beforehand where you can get to know the other people which often helps conversation when discussing research because you have broken the ice already while having coffee. Whoever is hosting the meeting needs to be experienced in chairing a meeting so that everyone is included and no one is taking over and being over bearing.
However there are some great positives to doing PPI virtually especially when you live with a chronic illness. Chronic illness can make travelling and full days of meetings really hard and they take a toll. When you can attend meetings virtually it eliminates the travel and being exposed to bugs on trains etc and you get to be in the comfort of your own home in your own surroundings.
As I am really busy with various different PPI groups I often have to pick and choose what meetings I can attend due to the travel aspect because they are often all in different locations but when it is virtual there is no travel so long as they don’t over lap there is no issue.
I am not sure how researchers feel about having to do PPI virtually compared with face to face. I would hope they can see the positives from it and this will encourage more researchers to embed PPI in their work.