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People :: Alumni :: Sarah Henning

Sarah Henning

Sarah Henning

Master of Social Work 2008

Graduated: 2008

Life before social work: I did my undergraduate in history at the University of Aberdeen, which I loved, but social work had always been at the back of my mind. After graduating I did a few different jobs, working in an outdoor centre and then a support assistant for adults with learning difficulties, before deciding to take the plunge and apply for the MSW at Edinburgh.

Time at the University: I came to start the course in 2006 and loved being back at University.  Having grown up in Edinburgh the campus and city all felt very familiar and reassuring.  The courses were interesting and it was good to be mixed for some of them with the social work undergraduates.  We were encouraged to reflect on our own lives and the impact we would have on our clients and their families, skills which I found stood me in good stead when I went out into practice.  My placements were both in children and families (which I felt quite nervous about as adult services was where I wanted to work).  My first placement was at a residential school and my second was at the children and families team at the Royal Infirmary Hospital.  Out of all my experiences on the course that second placement had the greatest impact on me.  The team there were small and worked with mainly substance misusing pregnant women who were without fixed abodes.  The work could be very challenging but they showed me that by working openly and honestly with their clients, and by closely supporting each other you could do excellent work, and that ‘child protection’ situations didn’t need to be anxiety provoking.

Since leaving:  I graduated in 2008 and got a split post as a social worker at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh working part time for both the Scottish Neurobehavioural Rehabilitation Service and the Old Age Psychiatry team.  These roles mainly involved discharge planning, which could be a very drawn out process, especially in the SNRS where it could take years (literally) to arrange placements for people.  It gave me the opportunity to really get to know clients over time, an aspect of the job which I thoroughly enjoyed.  In 2012 the MHOs and Royal Edinburgh Hospital teams merged and I went to work full time for the Mental Health (North) Team based in the High Street.  This involved working with clients in the community as well as the hospital, something which I took a while to adjust to but I came to enjoy this variety.  I went on maternity leave in 2014 and when I came back I saw a flyer for a PhD at the University of Edinburgh focusing on the history of social work education here.  I had never thought of doing a PhD before but the topic sounded so interesting, combining two areas I feel passionate about, that I applied and was lucky enough to be accepted.  I came back to the University to start the PhD (part time) in September 2016.

Looking ahead:  The PhD has started well and is very interesting.  I’m getting used to a change of pace, and working less to crisis deadlines and more to deadlines I set myself.  I think the project is going to be very interesting and it’s excited to be involved with the School in the lead up to its centenary.  It’s an opportunity to look back at the great achievements of the past and think about what lies in store for the future.

Source: own contribution.