What was your background in before studying this course?
I graduated with a Sociology and Psychology degree in 2014. I didn’t have a clue what next steps to take, so I applied for a job in a nursing home that catered to the needs of adults with complex conditions. I intended to stay for 6 months while I figured out what to do with my degree, but the years flew by and before I knew it, it had been four years. I was lucky to be working with people who had a range of conditions from Huntington’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis to those with acquired brain injuries amongst other things. This allowed me to gather a vast range of experience both from a medical perspective but also developing my understanding of social and environmental factors that can influence people’s lives. Despite being in position to learn lots of new skills and knowledge, aspects of the job were challenging, and it began to be a stressful environment in which to work. I began to become tired with the restricting and disabling context of the environment, combined with the loss of someone close to me, I knew I needed to find something that would change both my life and the lives of others for the better.
What encouraged you to study at postgraduate level?
I knew I wanted to find a career that could combine aspects of my original degree and also the experience I had gathered from working in the nursing home. I knew I was well placed in a caring role and it made me consider career opportunities that would allow me to utilise this side of myself and continue taking it forward to make a difference in the lives of people who need it most. I had always considered Occupational Therapy as something that seemed a rewarding career, but I never thought I would have the qualifications to pursue it. Once I heard about the course at Edinburgh Napier, after initial doubts I thought… Why not take the chance? What’s is the worst that can happen?
Why did you choose to study here at ENU?
I had studied my undergraduate degree at Edinburgh Napier and was more than happy to see that the course was provided by them. I always found Edinburgh Napier an inclusive and diverse University that gave opportunity to people from varied backgrounds and I liked this ethos. It made me feel comfortable and valued as a student which really allows you to focus on learning.
How did you hear about the course?
A physiotherapist at work had heard about the development of a new programme and that they were taking applications. I had doubts but he was very encouraging in that he thought I would have the experience and character to be well placed for a career in Occupational Therapy. So, I gave it a bash and I here I am today prompting others to do the same.
What are your favourite parts of the course and are there any highlights?
The course far out did any expectations I had. I remember on my second week sitting in class and just smiling to myself, knowing I had made the right decision and what I was going to be taught was going to be invaluable. The course has been well designed, despite a few hiccups which would be expected from a first-time programme, you really have a wealth of opportunity.
I really enjoyed all the hands-on learning opportunities for example as a class we went gardening. This type of learning is extremely beneficial to me, it might seem just like gardening but when you break it down it really helps you to understand the therapeutic benefits of occupation, how people participate in occupation and it also beats sitting in a classroom.
I enjoyed clinical sessions where we got to utilise the clinical skills centre and work in a replicated environment that supports you to think about applying practice in real life. If you like hands on learning, this course gives you plenty opportunity to do so.
Additionally, guest speakers often attend classes, and this is another beneficial way to combine the knowledge you have obtained on the degree and understand how it is applied in practice.
You are exposed to multiple ways of learning, given opportunities to work with other students (social work, physiotherapy) and are supported by committed and enthusiastic lecturers who genuinely want you to succeed. Plus, there’s a Starbucks on campus which really elevates the whole postgraduate lifestyle.
Any challenges so far?
The main challenges for me have been financially dominated. I have had to work consistently on a weekly basis throughout this degree in order to pay tuition and living expenses. It has not been easy but what I have learnt is that it is possible. Especially if you are passionate about something you’ll find that you manage to juggle several things and even though it can be a struggle at times you’ll be surprised at the things you can achieve when you put your mind to it. Studying on this degree is a big commitment, it dominates your time and some things in your life have to give but when you can see the finish line and how beneficial it will be to not only to yourself but to others it keeps to motivated to continue and makes the sacrifices a little easier to bare.
Placements are also an additional challenge; I have been required to move location for two of mine and this can be a little unsettling particularly as there is little financial support when it comes to placement. The experience in itself is valuable you learn a lot and get to meet lots of new people as well as network within the profession. Yet, it can be challenging when your up against varying circumstances that make it so. Just being aware of this can make it less of a blow and help you too put measures in place that enable you to complete placement and benefit from the experience.
How did you find the transition between Undergraduate to Postgraduate courses?
I was very apprehensive about the transition between undergraduate and postgraduate, particularly because this was a full time post graduate degree. I was aware that I would need to be committed and put the effort in and that studying on this degree would require some sacrifices. It is definitely a jump in terms of learning, applying knowledge and demonstrating this through assessments. It requires you to really knuckle down, it’s definitely not without brain ache and exhaustion. However, once you get into a good routine, attending all classes, fitting in reading, and writing on the commute its very much manageable.
Would you recommend the course? If so, why?
I would recommend the course particularly to anyone with an interest and a passion for caring for others and wanting to enable people to reach their full potential no matter the challenges they face. The lecturers are passionate about the profession and come with a valuable range of experience, knowledge and skill which is a real asset to the course and makes you feel as though you are well supported. The course takes a holistic approach that not only allows you to professionally develop but also develop personally and for me this is a significant benefit as you start to see yourself and the world in a greater light.
What advice would you give to anyone considering this course?
Deciding to apply for this degree was a very last-minute decision for me, I was also given a place very last minute too. Therefore, I never had the time to think about it properly and luckily it worked out for me. Therefore, I say don’t be scared to take a chance as you might just find it will pay off.
But if you have the time to consider it, please do give it some thought. Think about the things you’re willing to sacrifice (social life, time, money, lie-ins) because it isn’t without. If you need to, go down multiple funding avenues they are out there and the ENU website is a good place to start. Be aware and prepared that it is a jump in learning and requires a lot of your time both physically and emotionally.
If you happen to get a place never underestimate the benefit of starting your assessments as soon as you know what they are. You might not have all the knowledge you need but putting thoughts and ideas on paper early on is a real benefit to developing your work and reducing your stress. It is a noticeable difference from undergraduate and this was what helped me to keep aspects of a social life, work life and participate at master’s level. Do those readings, whenever you can, do a little bit extra and always edit everything. Lecturers always said to me the work is in the edit and this is very much the case. Once you have the bones of the work the edit can really make a huge difference to the quality of work you submit.
I qualify in December and I am really looking forward to what lies ahead for me. I have ambitions of becoming an occupational therapist within palliative care services and hope to someday move to New Zealand to practice there. Not before gaining experience here first, with the possibility of attending the Royal College of Occupational Therapy conference next year to present my dissertation findings. But I’m just going to enjoy the ride and be open to any opportunity that comes my way.