Inspirational student celebrates graduation after battle with chronic illness

7 September 2021

Shelley Baines’ efforts pay off with first-class degree and operating department practice graduate role

A dedicated operating department practice (ODP) student who overcame health and family issues while studying has celebrated her graduation from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Shelley Baines was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, developed psoriatic arthritis which required immunosuppressive therapy and had to deal with her house being flooded and redundancies – all in the middle of a devastating pandemic.

Remarkably, these setbacks didn’t deter Shelley’s passion and dream of building a career in medicine, in fact, they only spurred her on to complete her degree.

The 33-year-old, from Kendal, said: “To do my best, I’ve had to learn to work smarter, not harder, and although I’m still not stabilised on treatment, both university and placement have been incredibly supportive.

“It’s been frustrating having deadlines and planning to do Uni work all day and then my body has thrown me a curve ball, and I simply haven’t been able to spend my day on my work, but I had some adaptations for computer software and a desk which I can raise to whatever height I need, courtesy of the Disabled Students’ Allowance, and this really helped.

"My disabilities and the challenges that I have faced do not define me, and I am proud of managing to obtain a first-class degree"

Operating department practice graduate Shelley Baines

“My disabilities and the challenges that I have faced do not define me, and I am proud of managing to obtain a first-class degree.”

While studying for her degree, Shelley worked across three hospitals, including an elective placement with critical care transfer team, NECTAR.

“I’ve worked across three hospitals, which is really unusual for ODP training, and for my elective placement, I managed to go to Newcastle in February to work with NECTAR, which is a Critical Care Transfer Team, where I was able to do land and flight transfers with adults and children.

“I also opted in last summer to help with the Covid response and spent five weeks working in an Intensive Care Unit. There are opportunities to really push yourself and build your knowledge outside of the main focuses of the course if you seek them out.”

Shelley is now hoping to pursue a career in operating department practice and continues to undertake professional development to hone her skills, with the University’s support being a fundamental factor in her success story.

“You can do anything you put your mind to. If you are determined to do something and challenges come your way, the university have lots of great support systems to help students when challenges arise, and I gained a lot from accessing these.

“My lecturers and my course friends were my biggest support, and I’ve made friends for life.”

Written by Daniel Woffenden