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Delivering healthcare hits right note for singer Sarah

Occupational therapy graduate Sarah Morton (centre) with her parents Alan and Polly inside Carlisle Cathedral following her graduation ceremony

Supporting patients in her local community is the reward for newly qualified occupational therapist Sarah Morton.

Sarah, from Alston, is delighted to have landed her first job in the NHS upon graduating from the University of Cumbria.

Her appointment with the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust will see 30-year-old Sarah work with patients in hospitals at Hexham and Haltwhistle.

Sarah has completed a three-year BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy degree, a course accredited by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists and approved by the Health Care Professions Council.

Varied course placements included working on Susan’s Farm in Houghton, a north Cumbrian farm known for its support of vulnerable adults and teenagers being educated in alternative provision; time with a community mental health team in Dumfries; rotations in hospitals in north Cumbria; and two months working in a Community Adult Therapy Services (CATS) team on the Isle of Man.

Sarah said: “Two months on the Isle of Man was a challenging placement. I saved my study leave to take longer breaks so I could come home to see my family but it demonstrates how my placements have been varied and that they can only bode well for me for the future because I’ve adapted to different settings and environments when I’ve needed to.

“When I was due to return home from the Isle of Man I couldn’t get home. Ferries had been cancelled because of the Beast from the East and it meant I had to go back to the hospital to ask if I could stay in one of the rooms there until I could make it home. Back at home the Army was being brought in because of the snow.”

Sarah Morton and fellow occupational therapy graduands celebrating their achievements

She added: “My time on Susan’s Farm was a role emerging placement, they’ve had other university students on the farm before but not someone from OT. It has been so important to my overall experience as a student because it was useful for me to see how important charities are in providing vital care. Often OTs may refer to these services and therefore it was so valuable seeing their work first hand to take forward into practice.”

Sarah, who initially pursued a career in music, is one of the many mature students who choose to learn at the University of Cumbria and are well supported as they take a non-traditional route into higher education.

Sarah used the Prospects website – www.prospects.ac.uk – to explore potential careers. Completing an online assessment, she discovered that occupational therapy was one of the top 10 professions suggested from the answers she gave. Not knowing exactly what it was, Sarah did further research before returning to learning.

She said: “I had to go and do A-levels again before doing my degree because I only had a BTec in music which wasn’t acceptable for entry requirements. I got my A-levels and then I was able to go forward.

“When I looked at university options I thought the University of Cumbria was really approachable. Lecturers were supportive and passionate about the subject. The course has been a challenge in itself as have other factors such as finance but I received help with that. I know the team has gone above and beyond to help me.”

Alison Hampson, the university’s head of Health, Psychology and Social Studies, said: “Occupational Therapy is a diverse career, working with people with a range of occupational needs. It is really something special to enable people to succeed and achieve the important things in their lives. In the current transformation of the NHS and establishing of Integrated Care Communities, we need many more people to come into the profession of Occupational Therapy.”

The University of Cumbria has one of the country’s highest graduate employability rates. The latest available figures from The Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey shows that 97 per cent of all graduates are in employment within six months of graduating and of those 82 per cent are in professional level jobs or study.

Sarah’s parents Polly and Alan, from Stanhope in County Durham, joined her partner Richard and best friend Nicola in Carlisle for her recent graduation ceremony.

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