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Aisling O'Neill


Aisling is a fourth year speech and language therapy student at University College Cork. She also previously graduated from UCC in 2018 with a BSocSc (Hons) in Social Science. Aisling was awarded the PPI Ignite @UCC Summer Scholarship for the summer of 2023, where she worked with the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC) for 6 weeks. She has a particular interest in involving individuals with communication difficulties in research and was involved with AIIHPC on the planning of a communication focused PPI event that took place in October 2023 entitled "Communicating Together to inform Palliative and Healthcare Research". Aisling is passionate about working with adults of all ages with acquired communication difficulties. She has studied speech and language therapy in the context of both the adult and paediatric population and is currently carrying out her final year research project which is entitled "Being a Multilingual Child in a Monolingual Society: A Case Study of Multilingual Twins in Ireland".


Summer Studentship Reflection 

How did the scholarship benefit you personally? (e.g., in terms of career/personal development) 

In terms of career development, the scholarship was a great networking opportunity. Through the planning of the PPI Event in October, I had the opportunity to to meet with some other speech and language therapists (SLTs) and researchers. It was interesting to hear about their work. 

In terms of personal development, I really enjoyed working with the team at AIIHPC. It was nice to be part of a small team, and everyone was very welcoming. My manager organised meetings with all team members for me early on so I was able to learn about everyone’s different roles. I enjoyed liaising with the PPI group (Voices4Care) members. I particularly enjoyed the online ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) sessions where I was able to observe presentations from nursing home and hospice care staff members on topics such as difficult conversations and supporting family members at the end of life.  

It was great to work with AIIHPC and I feel as though my own interests were really embraced. The team were very interested in my area (SLT) and helped me to network with other SLTs through the planning of the event. I also improved on my use of Plain English when communicating with Voices4Care members by sending out emails to them inviting them to contribute to various research projects.

The PPI Ignite @ UCC staff were very forthcoming in terms of additional opportunities for my career progression and supported me to submit an abstract for the College of Medicine and Health Futures Research conference in September 2023 which was accepted and displayed as an online poster at the conference. 


How did the scholarship benefit AIIPHC? 

I assisted the institute to plan and organise an event focused on promoting the importance of involving people with speech, language and communication needs in palliative and healthcare research, as well as involving senior researchers and early career researchers. I was also able to bring new ideas to the team from a new perspective, which was reported as being very valuable. I also helped to recruit PPI contributors from Voices4Care for 3 different research projects (Artificial Intelligence, Energy Hardship and Death Literacy Index), as I sent out the information for these projects for expressions of interest for involvement and I had a great response. 


How did the scholarship benefit (directly or indirectly) patients/members of the public? (e.g., helping to improve lives/experiences of people using palliative care services) 

Voices4Care members benefitted from the PPI event directly as several of them (some who have palliative care needs) attended on the day. On the day, there was an introduction to PPI research, two sessions whereby a researcher and a person with communication needs (i. aphasia and ii. motor neuron disease) explored the experiences, challenges and benefits of working together, and finally a facilitated group workshop. The objectives for the workshop were as follows:

1. Prepare for and manage PPI challenges and sensitivities when including people with speech, language and communication needs.  

2. Widen PPI activities to facilitate meaningful involvement of PPI contributors who have speech, language and communication needs to improve research outcomes. 

3. Develop PPI recruitment strategies for involving people with speech, language and communication needs that foster inclusivity and support diversity. 

Overall, the scholarship was an enjoyable and valuable learning experience and I would recommend anyone who is interested to apply for the opportunity. 

PPI Ignite Network@UCC

4th Floor Western Gateway Building, University College Cork, T12 XF62