Megan McAlister – our one-year Psychology placement student behind the Covid-19 stats
Megan McAlister discusses her NISRA placement, where she has been involved in the reporting of Covid-19 statistics
My one year placement is in the Vital Stats Unit at NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency)– which handles information regarding births, deaths, adoptions and more. Most notably, my work involves reporting COVID-19 statistics. I have had the opportunity to look at death rates according to location, age and gender, and collate these findings in an easy accessible bulletin format that is published for public use.
The research skills I developed in my Psychology degree have been useful in ensuring data is accurate before it gets released to the public. I adopt a methodology that is systematic, work is peer-reviewed, and our method is replicable if another research body tested our findings. Providing reliable data is very important as it can influence Executive decisions regarding public health and well-being in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Using SPSS in my degree has also helped me adapt quickly to using another statistical software called SQL.
I applied for this placement because I knew gaining experience in the workplace would help me develop valuable skills that would be transferable to graduate jobs. For example, some of the skills I have acquired include statistical analysis, team-work, and problem-solving. I am so glad I applied and working with NISRA has exceeded my expectations. The team has been extremely supportive every step of the way despite such challenging conditions. It is also very fulfilling to have a responsibility of providing important information to the public, and one of my highlights has been seeing my work published on BBC News.
I plan on getting as much experience as I can for the rest of my placement. I recently became involved in an on-going issue with suicide rates regarding drug-related deaths. This has allowed me to bring in my own knowledge from my Psychology degree, and working first-hand with figures will provide valuable insight and help me understand trends in suicide. For example, the very significant gender difference in suicide rates.
I would like to eventually have a job in professional psychology, so after graduation, I would like to gain more experience that maximises my prospects of this. After my placement, my research skills will have been greatly enhanced which will be very beneficial when I apply for a Masters. I definitely feel that my experience with NISRA has provided me with a better understanding of what a graduate workplace will be like and will help prepare me for the challenges to come.
To learn more about our one year paid placements visit: