PhD Studentship: Self-affirmations, burnout and patient safety perceptions in nursing staff

University of Leeds - School of Psychology - Yorkshire Quality and Safety Research Group, Bradford Institute for Health Research

PhD Studentship in the School of Psychology, University of Leeds
and Yorkshire Quality and Safety Research Group, Bradford Institute for Health Research

Supervisors: Dr Judith Johnson, Professor Karen Spilsbury, Dr Angela Grange
Funding: National Institute for Health Research

A PhD studentship available for UK and EU citizens only. The studentship will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £14,553 for up to 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress and will cover the UK/EU tuition fees.  This studentship will commence in October 2017.

You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject. This project would suit a student with a background in social science or social, clinical, health or occupational psychology OR a healthcare professional with a masters in research.

The Faculty minimum requirements for candidates whose first language is not English are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.


There are widespread concerns about increasing levels of burnout in the healthcare workforce. Elevated staff burnout is associated with a range of patient-care outcomes. Two recent meta-analyses suggest that interventions are effective for reducing burnout but there is currently no evidence regarding whether these interventions produce concomitant improvements in perceptions of patient safety. Furthermore, the majority of work in this area has focused on doctors, and there is a need to consider burnout reduction in nurses.

One practical intervention for reducing burnout in nurses may involve the use of self-affirmations. Self-affirmation theory views people as story tellers with a powerful need to tell a coherent narrative about themselves as individuals who can control important outcomes in their lives. Events which threaten this narrative, such as work stressors, cause distress. Self-affirmation theory suggests that practising self-affirmations can help an individual to restore this narrative. Research has found that self-affirmations are associated with improved stress management and cognitive performance.

The current studentship will:

  1. Systematically review studies which have investigated self-affirmation interventions in healthcare staff
  2. Develop a burnout intervention based on self-affirmations which can be delivered to nursing staff
  3. Conduct a pilot study of this intervention which investigates the impact of this on nurse burnout and patient safety perceptions

How to apply:

To apply for this scholarship applicants should complete a Faculty Scholarship Application form and send this alongside a full academic CV, degree transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) and degree certificates to the Faculty Graduate School

We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf, directly to by no later than Wednesday 31 May 2017.

If you have already applied for other scholarships using the Faculty Scholarship Application form you do not need to complete this form again. Instead you should email to inform us you would like to be considered for this scholarship project.

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to 

Closing date for this studentship is Wednesday 31 May 2017

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Northern England