Promoting the use of R in the NHS

Blog Article

How many instant message notifications do you get a day? We get message notifications for conversations we have with others, news we subscribe from our computers, smartphones, smart home devices, wearable techs and so on. We live in a time where we learn anything by ‘googling’ for questions or we ask two well-known people living in the cloud called Siri or Alexa who retrieve answers for us within seconds.

In my case, most of the time when self-murmuring and talking to tech devices have proven that I am completely lonely and isolated, I turn to Slack to post my questions and wait patiently for a response.

Slack is one of the many daily notifications I receive. NHS-R Slack is one of many communities I am part of.

At NHS-R Slack, we have 40 active channels and over 700 members in our communities.

To me, NHS-R Slack is unique in many ways. Not only it is a place I learn programming knowledge on R, Python, Julia and Linux but also how colleagues apply these skills into practice.

And that is exciting! Why?

Well, recently I have come to understand my learning style and appreciate that a powerful way to improve learning and memory is by practicing it. I hope this resonates with you that, sometimes, learning is hard; finding time to learn and memorise new skills. My takeaway is, we can convert short term memory into long term memory by practicing it via active learning approaches. I guess this is why I suggested starting a #book-club to cultivate my cognitive learning ability.

To me, Slack is not just a collaborative working space but also a learning platform. As the saying goes – “You don’t know what you don’t know”. Let me give you an example.

A few months ago, this thread started. I have heard of DES (Discrete Event Simulation) in theory however, following this thread has led me to learn about PathSimR developed by Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG with Health Foundation.


Eager to find out and learn more, I messaged Ben Murch for a chat. After that, I used Hexitime to request his help on how to use the package. By the beginning of January, I test drove this R package to apply DES model with social care homes demands by pathway. It is still work in progress but this is one of many scenarios where I’ve learned new skills from the NHS-R slack community.

Textbooks aren’t the only source for knowledge. Information sources are abundant. Learning new skills can be tough and requires our cognitive resources to store new knowledge gained. Learning a new skill and immediately applying it can maximise your learning cognitive ability. Come join me at NHS-R Slack Community and learn new skills together.

Nujcharee Haswell

(Data & Intelligence Specialist / Data Scientist Apprentice)

North Yorkshire County Council

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