Being an Occupational Therapy MSc student
Rachel Dinnage is just starting her second, and final, year of our Occupational Therapy (Pre-Registration) MSc. She took some time out to answer a few questions about her experience.
What made you choose Brighton and your course?
I was drawn to the courses teaching style of problem-based learning as I felt this would be an engaging way of learning. The testimonials from past students also highlighted the variety of career opportunities available following the course, and I felt that I would be able to use my past work experience in new and interesting ways.
I was also keen to move away from London to the South Coast and Brighton/Eastbourne/surrounding areas has lots of interesting places to live.
How did you decide what to study? Was it an easy choice or did you do lots of research?
I was initially interested in studying art psychotherapy but then learnt more about occupational therapy through a friend working as an activity worker in a forensic hospital.
I felt that occupational therapy would allow me to apply my interest in the arts in a variety of practical ways, whilst learning about different practice areas at the same time. There are also a wide variety of job opportunities available within the profession, and the opportunity to be qualified to work in different countries was also very appealing.
How did you feel when you were first accepted to Brighton, and how has the reality compared to what you imagined?
I applied slightly late in the year so found out a place was available towards the end of July to start in September which was really exciting. I knew that due to Covid-19 a lot of teaching would take place online.
Although I was slightly apprehensive about this, the learning experience has been fantastic and exceeded my expectations.
Can you tell us a bit more about your course? How would you describe it to a new student?
Occupational therapy is a healthcare profession which involves adapting environments, tasks and routines to ensure people can continue to engage in what is meaningful to them when experiencing physical or mental illness.
Occupation does not refer to work in the context of the course, occupation is everything we need and want to do and is personal to everyone. On the MSc course, everyone has come from very different education and work backgrounds which gives you even more opportunities to learn from your peers as well as the tutors on the course.
Can you give an example of something that has made you feel studying at Brighton was the right choice?
I’d say in most of our tutorials I have a moment like this – It’s amazing to take a step back and actually notice how interesting and rich the discussions you are having are, and how everyone is contributing such different things.
Each week we are given a ‘trigger’ and have to work together as a group to then identify what information we need to develop an end product such as a treatment plan. We then go away and find relevant information to bring back to the group.
As a way of learning, it’s given me so many useful skills. We also had a lecture from one of the tutors regarding how she set up a community arts project using her occupational therapy skills and as that is one of my future goals it was so inspiring to hear about.
How have you found studying for a postgraduate degree?
My undergraduate degree was BA(Hons) Illustration at a different university and I graduated in 2012.
Studying an MSc health sciences course is very different – a lot more written assignments, but I’ve found it surprisingly easy to adjust to and have felt very well supported along the way.
What aspects of the course do you find most interesting and why? What’s your favourite module?
For one of the modules, we took a case study of a client from our first placement and developed a treatment plan from this information. We had the choice to write this up in an essay format or create a 15 minute presentation. I went for the presentation option and really enjoyed the experience of putting it together as it helped build my confidence in verbally communicating the occupational therapy process.
I’ve also really enjoyed the placement experiences, as a lot of the course has been online it’s been a great opportunity to practice clinical skills in person. We’ve had a lot of guest lectures from past graduates working in different settings which has also been really motivating.
Can you tell us a bit about your placement experiences?
Our course incorporates a range of placements throughout both years.
I’ve completed two placements so far. The first was at East Surrey Hospital split between a Stroke ward and a Care of the Elderly ward – this gave me an insight of working in a fast-paced hospital setting, focusing on physical health needs and equipment.
My second placement was with the Care Home in Reach Team in Brighton. The team works with care homes as clients, facilitating workshops for staff on best practice in supporting people living with dementia. The experience gave me a valuable insight into working as part of a community mental health team and helped build my confidence.
Have you had any other work experience/work related learning outside of your course?
I have continued to work occasional days with the occupational therapy team in my old job at the start of the course. I have also continued with some freelance illustration work whilst studying this year.
What is the support like at Brighton?
The support from our course team has been fantastic. I feel that we’ve been well-informed throughout the year about any changes needed due to Covid-19, and any precautions when coming onto campus. All the changes required have felt proportionate and have been well explained.
The team have created a really positive online learning environment and I’ve felt more confident engaging in discussions and asking questions than I expected to be.
Tell us a bit about your experience of teaching and support staff – have any staff made a particular impression on you and why?
I’ve found the library staff at Queenswood very supportive as well. They are always very helpful in person and I arranged a 1:1 session on how to use referencing software as I wasn’t able to make the group session. They were very accommodating of this and the learning experience was still great even through it was all online.
Is there anything that you think the University of Brighton does particularly well?
I get the impression that Brighton value the diversity of experience different students have which makes for a really interesting learning environment. I also feel they have very good links with professionals and build this into the courses which gives you an insight into employment after studying.
What do you plan to do when you have finished your course?
I would like to work in a mental health setting although am undecided which area exactly. There is an option to apply for a rotation post which would involve short positions in a range of areas which might be a good way to decide.
In the longer term I’d also like to set up a community arts space in my local area, or work with galleries/arts organisations to help improve the accessibility of their programmes.