Sarah Lovatt, MSc Pre-registration graduate

What are you doing now?

I’m currently working as a qualified Occupational Therapist at Burton Hospitals Foundation Trust, on a rotational position which offers me experiences across a range of practice settings. These include Trauma and Orthopaedics, General Medicine, Surgery, Neuro, Macmillan, Rehabilitation and Outpatients.

My current rotation is part of the Trauma and Orthopaedic team within the acute hospital. Here I provide care to both elective and trauma patients; those who are admitted to hospital for planned surgery, and those who are admitted to hospital due to a traumatic accident or incident.

I work with my patients and their families to set and achieve goals, and utilise compensatory, adaptive, educational and rehabilitative approaches to optimise the patient experience.

In my introduction to qualified practice, I’ve been supported in completing the Occupational Therapy Preceptorship programme. Developing my Continuing Professional Development portfolio is integral to my work and my career offers many learning and development events and opportunities.

What were the main reasons you took that course?

I’ve always considered myself as a ‘people person’. In completing my BSc (Hons) Psychology degree elsewhere as an undergraduate, I felt very much as though I wanted to utilise my knowledge in a practical and effective way. The MSc Occupational Therapy (pre-registration) was an ideal route to take.

I attended the University of Derby’s Open Day and was offered the opportunity to meet the tutors and have a go at practising and receiving some of the key strategies of practice that I now use today. My eyes were opened to the facilities available at the University, which helped me see that the taught element was actually very closely linked to the practical components of my training. To me this solidified that it was the opportunity for me, and the course took me straight into professional registration for a lifelong career with many branches to explore.

Why did you choose to study the course at the University of Derby?

I was initially drawn to the University of Derby as it was one of few universities in the UK that offers the Masters programme for studying Occupational Therapy. I didn’t want to complete another undergraduate programme as I felt I was ready to progress academically. During my time in applying for the course, I sought experience with Occupational Therapists in various settings. It then became apparent to me that Derby is also highly regarded for its Allied Health Professionals training, a reputation the University continues to maintain.

What impact has studying this course at Derby had on your career?

The Occupational Therapy training offered at Derby is very comprehensive. As part of the training, students complete three practice placements, which the University tries to offer as much variance between as possible. This gave me the chance to apply my core skills to three different settings and helped prepare me for the varied job opportunities that were available upon graduation.

Furthermore, I feel the course was especially influential in enabling students to shape and develop into individual practitioners. My course cohort had some very different personalities, yet we all found our own way into qualified status. Whilst the profession of Occupational Therapy has a very key shared philosophy, the course encouraged us to develop a professional identity. My final year thesis especially helped me to feel as though I had ‘spread my wings’ and explored Occupational Therapy service provision in areas that were of particular interest to me. I felt very motivated and enthused to study.

How did the lecturers inspire you?

Similarly to the encouragement of developing our own professional identities, the lecturers inspired me as they themselves had their own professional identities and backgrounds which they share with us. Because of this I felt that their teaching was especially authentic and motivational. The variety of backgrounds across the Occupational Therapy lecturers was reassuring when I explored my own identity and delved into my thesis; I felt that there would always be a staff member to talk to who had speciality in a similar field and who would be keen to help and share ideas.

How do you feel the University has helped you in your career so far?

The University was key in helping me prepare for life as a qualified Occupational Therapist, facilitating sessions specifically for job searching/applications and career development. The lecturers were keen to put us in touch with previous students and the exposure to recent ‘real-life’ student/graduate experiences eased the transition away from student status. Furthermore, the University has continued to stay in touch with my cohort as we have settled into our practice roles; informing us of new learning and development opportunities and inviting us to regular networking events to share and celebrate best practice and innovation.

What are your future plans?

In the next few years I would like to progress to a Senior Occupational Therapist role, or possibly be leading a team within the therapy rotations. This may entail further post-graduate study to specialise in a particular area of practice. I’m especially keen to also train as an Educator for trainee Occupational Therapists. Attending the course was an exciting time for me, and I feel enthused to contribute towards building the experiences of the fresh faces within the profession.

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to study this course at the University of Derby?

I would not think twice in recommending the University to any aspiring Occupational Therapists or Allied Health Professionals. The Masters degree was a busy time, but my motivation and enthusiasm for the course and profession was nurtured and encouraged to thrive. I find the University shares this drive and passion, hence its strong reputation. I’m very pleased to have taken this route to start my career path and would encourage those considering a course to definitely attend an Open Day to get a ‘feel’ for the University and what it can offer.