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My University Experience - First Year Student: Sharon Riley

Released on - 30/03/2021

My University Experience - First Year Student: Sharon Riley

My name is Sharon Riley. I am six months into my university course at Derby University. I am studying a three year BSC Honours Degree in Operating Department Practice. I started my placement at Spire Edinburgh Hospitals during the Covid-19 Pandemic. I am so thankful that I have been able to continue my studies and carry on being a student. 

At first, remote learning was troublesome for me. I’m not great with technology and I had to learn a great deal very quickly. The tutors from Derby have been fantastic and their support has been excellent. 

The online technology gives me access to other students on the course and this is a good source of support. The university has collaborate sessions and the students in my cohort have created WhatsApp groups so we can all help each other as much as possible. I also work with three other students in my placement, which is great support while studying.

Keeping myself motivated has been a challenge. Working fulltime and studying is not easy! However, the help I’ve received from colleagues and mentors has been great. Actually, the support has been overwhelming. Everyone wants to see you achieve your goals and they are happy to spend extra time with me and proofread essays.

My advice for anyone about to start studying would be to have a plan and stick to it. Also, use the knowledge from your mentors and the other hospital staff. There are so many people wanting to help – really make the most of it! 

Prepare to put in a lot of work for placement and study- preparation is key! I set myself goals every week for studying and in the long run I feel this helps and enables me to find time to relax. Never ever underestimate yourself. Before starting this course I used to underestimate myself but now I aim to and am focussed on achieving my goals. This has really paid off and I have passed my first two essays. 

I felt nervous in my first placement, even though I’d been working in the hospital for 13 years! I was coming away from my role as a healthcare assistant and undertaking new learning. This wasn’t easy as I left school in 1995 and hadn’t undertaken any kind of studying after this. I am lucky to be working in placement with people I have worked with for years and on my first day they helped put me at ease. My placement has exceeded my expectations, the support from all members of the team have been exceptional.

During the pandemic, the hospital I was working in took on an NHS contract. This meant we were taken away from procedures we knew to work in different specialities. We are fortunate to have been fitted for FFP3 masks and kept as safe as possible. We are now Covid tested weekly and all patients are tested too. Patients are self-isolating before surgery.

The hospital has continued to operate on NHS cancer patients. I was on scrub placement and I feel fortunate to have been able to continue with my studies. Hopefully I’ll qualify in 2023. I’m looking forward to future studying.

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