Why did you decide to study for a postgraduate qualification?
After graduating as a Registered Mental Health Nurse in 1985, I have worked for NHS Dumfries and Galloway in various clinical and managerial positions for over 30years. Throughout my career, I have continued to develop my knowledge through various training, educational and academic routes including post graduate certificate and post graduate diploma awards from Glasgow University and Lancaster University Management School. My role over the past 14 years or so involved leading on service developments and service improvements in mental health services. Dementia care had become a large part of my remit; however I felt I had limited experience working with older people and specifically with people with dementia. As part of my ongoing personal and professional development , I was keen to pursue further post graduate education, therefore the Dementia Studies Programme appealed to me, as I felt it would help to enhance my professional role as well as pushing me out of that comfort zone.
Increasingly so it is an expectation for those in senior NHS positions to have supporting academic qualifications so undertaking the MSc could afford me further opportunity for career development.
What attracted you to Stirling?
It was international reputation of the Faculty’s Dementia Services Development Centre and its dementia studies programme. The accessibility of the campus being only a 2 hour drive from home also allowed me the option of visiting the campus to use the facilities and supports there on a regular basis if I had required this.
Did the programme live up to expectations?
Most definitely. The interlinked and streamlined modules provided a logical consistency to my learning and development and allowed me to translate what I was learning into practice. The introductory day to each module and the face to face time with tutors was also invaluable.
Although I was fortunate enough not to require extensive support I always knew staff were on hand with practical advice in abundance and that they understood the pressures balancing professional and academic workloads.
The schedule of modules within the Spring and Autumn Semesters was also conducive to a good study/work/life balance.
Do you think the degree has advanced your key skills and made you more desirable to employers?
Without a doubt. Since commencing the Dementia Studies MSc, I have moved to an influential senior management position within the organisation and have responsibility for strategic decisions regarding NHS services and dementia care.
This programme really did open my eyes. It has provided me with the skills to translate complex academic research and theory into real life situations. I now feel equipped with the practical knowledge and a deeper understanding of dementia and dementia care to allow me to respond and make credible decisions and judgements on mental health service developments.
Whilst I would be looking to advance into other senior management positions within my local area, I have also worked at a national level, leading on mental health improvement programmes. I am confident that I would now be in a position to apply for and secure further job opportunities at national level if this was a career path that I wished to pursue
What was the most challenging aspect of your study?
I would be lying if I said that undertaking a three year part time degree whilst maintaining a demanding senior role within the NHS and juggling a social life and family commitments was easy but I would not change a thing.
Whilst diary management and rigid planning can sometimes be a challenge for me, I quickly learnt the importance of time management and prioritisation. Yes, I may have sacrificed a few evenings and weekends along the way but the great sense of personal achievement at the end was certainly worth it.
What advice would you give to a student considering studying this programme at Stirling?
University and academia is not just for young people at the start of their career; it is never too late and you are never too old to challenge yourself and progress. I would strongly encourage others to consider Stirling.
Linda graduated, in June 2016, with a distinction in the MSc in Dementia Studies programme.