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GRADUATIONS 2023: “I took a big risk leaving my full-time job”

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Published on 12 July 2023

Jennie Hair and Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Sunderland Sir David Bell
Jennie Hair and Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Sunderland Sir David Bell

Working in a nursery supporting children with a variety of needs inspired Jennie Hair to further her skills with a degree in Occupational Therapy.

Leaving a regular income and a steady job that she enjoyed was a bold move for the 27-year-old, but three years later the gamble paid off and Jennie has now graduated from the University of Sunderland this week with a First-Class Honours degree.    

She’ll also hit the ground running as she begins a new job as soon as she graduates, with full-time employment as an Occupational Therapist within the NHS.

“I took a big risk leaving my full-time job to come to university and change my career,” explained Jennie, from Sunderland.

“I had been working as an Early Years Practitioner in a local nursery, which is where I was inspired to study Occupational Therapy due to working with children with a range of needs.  I completed my first year of the course at another university before transferring to Sunderland to complete the rest of my degree.  

“Coming to Sunderland to study Occupational Therapy was the best decision I have ever made. I would highly recommend the programme and the university to anybody who has been thinking about having a change of career, or just wants to learn something new and meet new people.” 


Occupational Therapists work with people of all ages to enable participation in the occupations that they want and need to do. During the lifespan, occupational participation may be disrupted by ability, a condition, an illness, an injury, or a state of mind that can cause a mismatch between the person's ability, the demands of the occupation and/or the environment. Occupational therapists enable participation through modifying occupations, promoting new skills or approaches, adapting environments, or a combination of these.

Jennie says she was able to continue working in a nursery on a variable hours contract whilst studying, which helped her financially.

She added: “I have thoroughly enjoyed studying at Sunderland. The staff on the course have all been friendly, welcoming and supportive throughout my journey and have made the learning experience enjoyable. A particular highlight of this course is that lectures and workshops incorporate a range of interactive activities, meaning there is something to suit all learning styles which makes the learning experience exciting, informative and inclusive for everyone.  

“With placements on this programme being offered in a range of different practice areas, I feel that this has allowed me to transfer the knowledge and skills I have gained in the classroom into practice, and this has developed my confidence in becoming an autonomous practitioner, therefore preparing me for my new role in the NHS.”

For students in the first term of their own programme, Jennie advises: “Try to balance your time as much as possible to make sure you get an equal balance of time for yourself, time with friends, time with family and time to study, and don’t be afraid to ask staff for help as they are there to support you.”

Nina Bedding, Professional Lead Occupational Therapy, said: “Jennie has been a dedicated student from the day she arrived at the University of Sunderland giving 110% to everything. 

“Her First-Class degree reflects her commitment. I am so pleased that Jennie made the leap and altered her career.

“She will be an asset to the profession. I look forward to following her journey as an occupational therapist. Well done Jennie!”