A Day in the Life of a CE: Anique de Bruin

By Jamiu Busari (@jobusar)

Anique de Bruin
Professor
Self-regulation in Higher Education
School of Health Professions Education
Maastricht University
The Netherlands

Professor Dr. Anique de Bruin is an educational psychologist who has spent her career fascinated by how health professionals (in training) learn and act. With her psychology background, she takes a mostly cognitive perspective – for example, trying to understand various thinking processes during (the development of) clinical reasoning. Anique is also intrigued by how we can help undergraduate students develop self-regulated learning skills to make the most out of their training and prepare them for the workplace.

Balancing a large research appointment with daily responsibilities

While on paper her time is distributed 70 per cent to research, 10 per cent to management time and 20 per cent to teaching; Anique reveals that her management responsibilities demand much more of her time in reality and are spread over an array of activities.  This makes it difficult for her to dedicate the desired amount of her time to research. She shares that she has recently received a large educational research grant, saying, “I feel privileged to have a large research appointment, although the fragmentation in my time can be frustrating”.  She confides she has always had difficulty focusing on her own reading and writing in between other tasks and therefore prefers larger chunks of time (from several hours to a day) to be able cover the tasks adequately.  However, she believes that it is a matter of sticking to a strict top-down management of her agenda and reserving time to address all of her tasks well in advance. In practice, of course there are always matters that require immediate attention: “I am still learning!”

She adds that it is a constant challenge to teach, do administrative work, and manage all the research projects she is involved in; all while soliciting for novel research funds and securing career opportunities for the talented employees she works with. While she admits science needs time and room for experimentation, exploration and failure, “I truly wish we could slow down the rat race; it won’t harm productivity and it will increase belongingness.”

The key to life-work balance: doing what you love

When asked to describe her career, Dr. de Bruin replies, “I truly feel I have a job that fits my interests, development and ambitions amazingly well. I enjoy the incredibly clever and kind people I have the possibility to work with, and I like how new opportunities to improve education and to develop myself present to me regularly. Earlier in my career, I used to work in the department of psychology and missed the connection with the subject of my research. Now in health professions education research, we are continuously linking with education, collaborating with clinician, educators, and students. She adds, “Continuously dealing with the complexity of real-life education truly grounds me in my research and pushes me to apply a multi-faceted perspective in research frameworks and methods”.

As she is also a mother of three children, it’s tempting to feel she is falling short in both home and work. “But at the end of the day, I am thankful to be able to develop myself and contribute to both. What has worked for me is ensuring excellent childcare and support at home, working close to home, and regularly creating space between work and home for myself. And most of all: doing what I love, be it at work or at home. As ‘Hallmark-card phrase’ as it may sound, it has been very helpful to me that I experience value in what I am doing.”

Three tips for junior CEs: Think creatively, be compassionate and embrace the doubt!

  • Think creatively when you feel stuck. Often, a lot more is possible than you think, and people are willing to help.
  • Be compassionate. In a competitive academic world, it is easy to be too strict on yourself or others, but compassion wins the day.
  • Embrace the doubt. It is completely normal to have regular doubts in an uncertain world, and it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to acknowledge these.

Know a CE who you think we should profile on our blog? Send us your nominations at ice@royalcollege.ca! 

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