Case study

Cassie proves it’s never too late to achieve your dream job

Cassie Haywood decided to return to education at the age of 45. Our BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy course enabled her to develop the skills she needed to become the practitioner she has always dreamed of being. She is now working on the Isle of Man as an occupational therapist.

Taking the leap

Occupational therapy has been a part of Cassie’s working life since 2000. “I first started working in healthcare part-time as an occupational therapy assistant (OTA),” Cassie explains. “I began my occupational therapy training part-time alongside work.”

Unfortunately, personal circumstances impacted on her ability to complete the course, and she instead spent the following years working as a mental health recovery worker, with veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and with people with dementia.

Fast forward 20 years and, in 2019, the service she was working with was decommissioned, leaving Cassie reconsidering where to focus her future career. “Having reflected a great deal, I decided to apply for the course again because I knew, even after 20 years, I still wanted to be an occupational therapist.”

Cassie decided to enrol on our BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy course. “Returning to studies was so daunting, my confidence was low in relation to learning and I really did not know what to expect being among younger people," she says. "I believe I was the oldest on the course! However, I was motivated to put every effort into studying because ultimately this would give me my dream.”

Cassie in the OT kitchen

Invaluable opportunities and support

Cassie had the opportunity to undertake three work placements during her course, both in community and clinical settings. “The varying placements enabled me to gain knowledge and understanding of how different the role of an occupational therapist is within different settings,” she explains. “All of this experience can be put together to enable me to become the practitioner I am today and supports my continued growth."

“Being able to put what I was learning into practice, and then understanding how it comes together, was invaluable. I also feel it helped me to become more resilient, giving me more confidence and increased motivation to get to the end of the course!”

Cassie also found the library facilities to be particularly valuable as a mature student who had been out of education for some time. She says: “The library facilities I found really beneficial, having the opportunity to meet with someone to go through things like referencing, for example, enabled me to gain confidence and the abilities to complete assignments."

A student's hands pouring coffee from a Turkish coffee pot into a mug

I found the support to be exceptional. My lecturers have been so supportive throughout my studies. I cannot thank them enough. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Derby. Without it, I would not be where I am today!

Cassie Haywood
BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy graduate

A dream fulfilled

Cassie feels the course has given her more than simply professional skills. She explains: “On a personal level, my confidence has grown in relation to work. I am generally happier as I am now living and working in environments of choice. My resilience, and my empathy for others and myself has increased. I feel I ‘fit’. I am where I want to be."

And her advice for anyone considering returning to education is to embrace the opportunity and ‘go for it’. She adds: “At the age of 45, I made a decision to return to education as this was a way to achieve my dream job. The journey was not easy, and there were challenges along the way, but I did it and, at the age of 48, I walked along that stage in my cap and gown with my family watching.”

Kedleston Road, Derby Campus entrance

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