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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Elizabeth Heron BSc Occupational Therapy 2017

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Hi, I'm Elizabeth Heron and I've just completed my BSc Occupational Therapy degree at the University of Southampton.

During my three years at the University I have been inspired by the world-leading academics that share my passion for learning and discovery

What made you select the University of Southampton for your Undergraduate study?

The University of Southampton is a well-regarded institution and is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive UK universities with an outstanding reputation for health care and allied health professionals.

Why did you want to study Occupational Therapy?

After successfully completing my BSc in Biomedical Science and fuelled by my love of working with patients I took a role at Southmead Hospital in Bristol as a locum-nursing assistant. Through this I had the opportunity to work closely with a number of Occupational Therapists; I was inspired by their holistic approach to health care and the emphasis they placed not only on health but also patient wellbeing, putting patients at the centre of the care we provided and working with patients to co-produce health goals that are meaningful.  Following this experience, I decided to apply and was thrilled to be accepted onto the BSc Occupational Therapy programme.

What has it been like studying at the University of Southampton?

During my three years at the University I have been inspired by the world-leading academics that share my passion for learning and discovery. The opportunities I have been given have been life-changing and the University suits me perfectly. I have been well supported but also given the opportunities to innovate and lead.

What do you think about the study facilities at the University?

The specialist Occupational Therapy room is fantastic with access to state of the art equipment. It really helped being able to carry out practical work under the guidance of the specialist manual-handling OT’s. It’s also really useful when we work in teams and adopt the patient role in scenarios. This really enables you to understand how it feels from the patient’s perspective which I think has made me a better practitioner.

The Hartley library is huge and an amazing resource. All students also have access to further online resources through the University's student portal (SUSSED).

What is Southampton like as a City to live in?

Southampton is fantastic city, it has great shopping and is also so close to the beautiful New Forest. I walk through Southampton Common on my journey to the University each day. I love having the time to relax and unwind and feel fortunate that the University is right next door to such a beautiful green area.

Were there any modules that stood out during your course?

The dissection labs carried out at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) in our first year of study were fascinating. It’s so helpful seeing how everything works in real life.

I was inspired when, in my last semester we had a visiting lecturer; Southampton Alumnus, Dr Charlotte Brooks, a leader in the field of health literacy and a senior Occupational Therapist at University Hospital Southampton teach the complex therapeutic engagement module, 'health literacy'. It was really useful hearing about her real world experiences.

How has your time at Southampton helped you to grow as a person?

Professor Jo Adams believed in my academic abilities despite my dyslexia and gave me the confidence I needed to follow a path in research. She has acted as a mentor and has been a true inspiration as the Professional Lead for Occupational Therapy. The research teams in the faculty are incredible. You get to be involved with world leading research and they all make sure you feel like a valued member of the team no matter how junior you are.

What have been your Southampton ‘highlights'?

Southampton University has afforded me so many opportunities to excel in my chosen field, supporting me in undertaking research. Following my first year of study I successfully applied for Southampton University’s very first Innovation Enterprise Internship. I was employed by the University to form an innovative partnership between the BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy undergraduate curriculum and two industry partners, in the development of a cloud-based software program, which aims to empower its users by offering products and equipment that could assist independent living.

This was such an enriching experience; not only did I get to network with some fantastic social enterprises and industry partners but I also had the opportunity to run a number of focus groups with enthusing Personal and Public Involvement (PPI) members allowing me to develop my core skills in qualitative research. Following this, I had the opportunity with support from the faculty to disseminate my findings at the British society of Rheumatology annual congress funded through a grant from Arthritis Research UK and had a related abstract titled ‘Designing an accessible digital health website for people with arthritis: involving service users in the development of a digital self-management website’ published in the UK's leading Rheumatology clinical academic journal. Subsequently, a feature article was published in Occupational Therapy News about my internship.

I was also fortunate enough to receive the Deans Award for ‘Exceptional contributions as an ambassador for the Faculty and the Occupational Therapy profession’.

Tell us about the next steps in your Occupational Therapy Career?

Following my previous experience in research I applied and was awarded a place on the Arthritis Research UK internship scheme 2017. This will be a fantastic opportunity to gain further skills in research and build my network with a fantastic team of national peers and mentors. Through this I will be able to complete research on the use of Social Networks to promote self-management of long-term conditions.

I am then looking to complete a PhD through the Wessex Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship (CDRF) which will allow me to continue researching whilst maintaining patient contact.

Ultimately I want to make a real difference to the quality of care we provide our patients.

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