Interview with Postgraduate Diploma Speech and Language Therapy graduate and PhD bursary student, Dermot Fitzsimons
Dermot Fitzsimons, from Glasgow, is a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) Speech and Language Therapy graduate from QMU and a current PhD bursary student within the University’s Clinical Audiology, Speech and Language Research Centre (CASL). He is also a part-time Assistant Lecturer as part of the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences at QMU.
Before arriving at QMU, Dermot completed a Joint BA (Hons) Russian and Psychology from the University of Strathclyde in 1996. He then went on to do a Masters in Research, Sociolinguistics and Russian in 1998.
Dermot has also worked as a subtitler, where he produced live and pre-prepared subtitles for broadcast on the BBC and Channel 4 for eight years before enrolling on the PGDip course.
Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh/Scotland?
“I’ve lived in Scotland since I was 18. I was living in Glasgow at the time and was not keen to move to England as I consider Scotland my home. While I could have stayed where I was in Glasgow and commuted, I decided to move to Edinburgh. Other people in my class did commute from Glasgow and found it worked out OK for them.”
Why did you choose to study PGDip Speech and Language Therapy QMU?
“I wanted to do this postgraduate course in particular as it had a great reputation, and it was distinctive in being the only postgraduate course in Scotland for the profession.
“I’d been to the Open Day and met a few of the staff, who were encouraging and positive about the course, and I came away feeling even more enthused about doing the course. My journey onto the course required patience, however – I applied and was placed on a waiting list; I reapplied the following year having sought out more experience of speech and language therapy by volunteering at an adult care home for a year in the interim, and secured a place on my second attempt.
“Ultimately, I chose the course because I wanted to become a Speech and Language Therapist! More specifically, I hoped the course would give me the chance to build on the skills I’d developed elsewhere in my working life, and also to learn and develop clinical skills. I was at a point where I really needed a career change and wanted to work with people much more. I knew I had good interpersonal skills, and had a lot of academic experience, so I wanted to combine these to other people’s benefit.”
How did you find the workload? Did you get any support?
“We were told from the start that the course was intensive, and this was definitely the case. However, with organisation, the workload is manageable. Longitudinal induction to the course at various points in the year allowed us to plan ahead in the short and long-term.
“The level of support was great. Staff were approachable, friendly and supportive, and each student also has a Personal Academic Tutor for one-to-one support if needed.”
Did you work during the course?
“I did part-time work for my former employer during the course, which helped me enormously with the day-to-day living costs. I did this at weekends so it didn’t infringe on lectures or my study time.”
How do you think your QMU degree has equipped you with the skills/knowledge to development your career?
“Clinical placement allowed me to get experience of a variety of speech and language therapy settings and roles, whilst also giving me the chance to develop my clinical skills and knowledge base. Taking on roles such as class rep, and in my second year, becoming a member of the Justice Scotland Clinical Excellence Network allowed me to apply my knowledge and broaden my experience of speech and language therapy”.
What obstacles did you encounter (if any) during your studies and how did you overcome them?
“I think for me, my self-confidence was an obstacle in the first year as everything was so new and I had been away from studying for a long time. I found I gained a lot of confidence from asking for support or clarification when it was needed, whether from other students or staff.”
What top tips would you give future students based on your own personal experience?
- Try and gain experience, whether by volunteering or shadowing an SLT, before you enrol on the course – it just gives you a taste of what to expect so when you get out on placement for the first time it doesn’t feel like so much of a shock.
- Expect to find it challenging! It’s an intensive and extremely varied course, but also very rewarding.
- Two years seems like a long time but it flies by. Make full use of the resources available to you at QMU in your time there, including the expertise and support of the academic staff. Take every opportunity that arises for you.
What happened immediately after you completed the course?
“I took a somewhat different path and applied for a studentship to conduct PhD research into language and communication needs of young offenders. I also took on an Assistant Lecturer role in the Speech and Language Therapy Division at QMU, contributing to both the undergraduate and postgraduate courses.”
Where are you now? Do you have any further future plans?
“I’m currently writing up my thesis and have just started work as a part-time community paediatric Speech and Language Therapist for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
“I’m also continuing with the part-time Assistant Lecturer role at QMU. I’m very busy but I work best when I have a number of roles that can feed into each other.”
Anything that you might have done differently?
“I don’t think so – I’m pretty happy with how things have worked out so far!”
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