Studying Clinical Trials online – Rhiannon's story

Rhiannon, from the UK, is in her second year studying Clinical Trials by Distance Learning. She tells us about her experience on the programme so far and how she's been studying part-time, while working full-time as a nurse.
Rhiannon Owen

When did you start at LSHTM? 

I started at LSHTM in October 2019, reading MSc Clinical Trials (distance learning).  

Please explain a bit about your academic/professional background  

I graduated in 2019 from King's College London with a BSc in Adult Nursing. I have since been working as an Intensive Care Nurse in Central London. It has definitely been a very busy year, and a crazy time to begin a career in nursing, but I have enjoyed being able to do my part during this pandemic.  

Why did you choose to study your course with LSHTM? 

I wanted to study at LSHTM because I have always had a keen interest in clinical research and was excited to join a world leading institution in clinical research, particularly in such a global context. I am also really proud of the way in which LSHTM empowers women in academia, including the annual Women in Health lecture series and Athena Swan accreditations.  

I love studying clinical trials because it allows me to study complex science and mathematics combined with medicine, socioeconomics, politics and international culture. 

The flexible style of distance learning and the ability to split the course over 2-5 years made a master's degree financially achievable for me.  

How did you hear about the programme?  

I heard about the programme after searching online for master's level Clinical Trials degrees that could offer the flexibility needed to accommodate my busy clinical hours.  

What have been your favourite aspects of the programme? 

My favourite module on the programme so far has actually been Basic Statistics for Clinical Trials. I don't have a strong background in mathematics, but the module was extremely accessible, and taught in such a way that I found it to be really rewarding. I really enjoyed how the module showed me how to apply the statistics I learned in the context of a clinical trial in practice. 

Even though the course is taught by distance learning, the online learning community is very supportive, with a range of forums that questions can be asked on - with prompt replies from both peers and teaching staff.  

I would not have been able to complete a master's programme without the flexibility that LSHTM offers, and I am very grateful for how receptive the faculty has been to student feedback to cultivate a really supportive learning environment.  

I have always wanted to undertake a career in scientific research, and this programme has given me a strong foundation to begin that career.

How has the programme helped to develop your career? 

I have always wanted to undertake a career in scientific research, and this programme has given me a strong foundation to begin that career. Lots of things learnt in the programme can be applied to aspects of my current job, but have also allowed me to expand that role further - for example, I am currently working on a trial at work that measures pollution levels around the hospital site.

What skills have you gained from studying this programme?  

Wow, I have learned so much from this course! I think I have definitely gained skills in self-discipline and organisation, as studying part time and working full time is no mean feat. My critical thinking skills have certainly improved, and I feel that I now approach things using wider perspectives. I really feel that I have developed my skills in academic writing, and have gained confidence in how to write papers and articles.  

Have you been able to connect/network with other students?

I have! The distance learning course uses 'Collaborate' sessions, which are group online video discussions with fellow classmates and tutors. The sessions are a really great place to facilitate discussion and ask any questions. The chat forums are really helpful too, and students ask each other questions all the time.

What are your plans for after you complete your studies?  

I am not sure. I would definitely like to pursue a career in scientific research. Maybe a PhD is looming over the horizon! 

What advice would you give to someone considering studying your course at LSHTM?  

Go for it. LSHTM manages to cultivate a really rewarding sense of achievement through distance learning. You really feel engaged with the course, and the modules are really challenging and interesting. The course can be as diverse as you make it, and there are so many modules (shared with a range of other specialties!) that you can choose to study as a part of your programme.  

Please sum up your experience of studying by distance learning with LSHTM

I have loved every minute of studying at LSHTM. The experience of distance learning has been a challenge that I have not experienced before, and I have had to learn to become very disciplined in order to complete my studies in a timely manner. I think it is important to study a subject that you are genuinely interested in in order to stay focused and grounded.

A real highlight of the programme is the regular newsletters, updates and research roundups that confirm you are a valuable member of the LSHTM community despite studying via distance learning.  

Tell us a bit about you – what do you do when you’re not working or studying?  

When I am not working, I can often be found either with my head in a book or in a nice sunny beer garden. I play the saxophone and flute. I am also a keen rugby player for London Welsh.