Case study

How Sarah’s changing the system from the inside

Sarah wanted to make the system better. That's why she studied our BSc (Hons) Integrative Health and Social Care Top-up degree. And she has graduated with first-class honours. But the start of her journey was very different. She left school at 14 and fell into a life of addiction that lasted over 20 years. Now she’s giving others the kind of support she never received.

A lifelong goal

She says: “I decided back then that if I was able to quit my addiction, I would like to work in services supporting people in similar situations but treating them more humanely than the experience I had. Having managed to go through the system, recover and come out the other side, I really wanted to work in that sector.”

Sarah started to work for a local charity as a grow worker – eventually developing her career to become one of their senior support workers.

The flexibility of online study

After four years of counselling training, Sarah was also working as a senior family practitioner for a service in the drug sector. She says: “I was already committed to my therapy training and working full time. I thought I wouldn’t be able to study."

She then discovered the BSc (Hons) Integrative Health and Social Care Top-up degree course was available to study online at Derby. Sarah was able to continue to work and continue her therapy training alongside studying her degree.

“As a mature student, I did not have the desire to experience ‘university life’, in fact, attending university whilst trying to work was very difficult. I decided that online learning would be more suitable for me. I have the motivation to study and loved the freedom of the course and how the materials were all available alongside the assessment briefs."

“This allowed me to study at my own pace and I managed to complete the degree in a year. The flexibility was brilliant - This is where Derby really helped me progress in my career – I could study at times that worked around my job and other commitments".

Tutor support

The support that the course tutors and the online learning advisors gave to Sarah really helped her adjust to online study.

“I and the rest of my cohort learned very quickly about changing from face-to-face to online study,” she says. “I thought the tutors were great. If you have any questions or needed extra support, which I did with regards to extensions and everything like that, they were really helpful. They were only an email away."

“You have the discussion boards where you can interact with others on your course and learn with your peers. I thought it was just wonderful. Being online and having the ability to do it in my own time was brilliant.”

Sarah studied online Integrated Health and Social Care BSc (Hons) Top-up

Study tips

Being disciplined with her studies really helped Sarah to be organised and graduate with her degree. Keeping an eye on her long-term goals kept her motivated.

“You've really got to make time to study, otherwise you just won't get the grades at all,” she says. “Sometimes I'm mindful of self-care as well, but I think it's about making short term sacrifices for long term goals. I know what my long-term goals are, and I want to achieve it and therefore something has to give somewhere. I managed my time to study.”

Sarah would go to the local library to allow her to focus when studying – using her noise cancelling headphones to help her with background music or sounds to help her focus.

“I'm fortunate that my daughter is 22. I've only got her and my two dogs, so it's not like I'm in a crazy environment, I can study from home easily if I need to as well.”

A bright future ahead

Graduating with a first-class degree has provided Sarah with many opportunities. She is now converting her degree into Psychology by completing an MSc Psychology conversion degree.

As well as studying, Sarah is currently in the process of establishing her own private practice as she is also a qualified therapist. After completion of her masters, she will be looking for a PhD scholarship in either forensic or counselling psychology.

And her degree has allowed her to start teaching at Buckinghamshire University as an Associate Lecturer in Health and Social Care.

“The waiting list for statutory services currently is so big and people are struggling with addiction everywhere, not just drugs. The amount of people who have problems with drink, it's everywhere in society. So, what I'd like to do is set up by myself as a sole trader in addiction, but then I'd really like to have a practise incorporating lots of other therapists as well.”

Teacher with children undertaking a colouring activity

Our online health and social care courses

We want to help develop your professional practice, so you can improve outcomes for patients. Our courses range from single modules to diplomas and degrees.

Find out more about our online health and social care coursesFind out more about our online health and social care courses