Six ways to succeed as a distance learner

by Alice Mason

07 October 2019


'Studying was a personal choice and a matter of priority for me'

There are plenty of unique benefits that come with being a distance learner; the convenience of not having to travel, studying from the comfort of your home and being able to fit learning around full-time work and family life.

I am head of operational finance for Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust, a community provider that administers services to a population of approximately 600,000 people.  I manage a team of 7 and my main duties include coordinating monthly reports, budget setting and final accounts. After working for the trust for two years, I decided to study for the HFMA diploma in healthcare business and finance as I saw the benefits it would have for my career. Reflecting on my studies, there were six key things that lead to me successfully completing the diploma whilst juggling a full-time job and even a house move!

1. Take every opportunity to study, no matter how short   

Studying from home was hugely convenient for me and I made sure I was always home for the live sessions. Having the online learning platform on an app was so helpful, it meant that if I found I had a spare half an hour, I would log on and do some reading. It also meant I could fit learning around my family life which would have been difficult had I needed to travel.

2. Build your own peer community to support learning

The great thing about the Academy live sessions was talking to peers from across the country that I never would have met normally. There were learners from Northern Ireland studying at the same time who shared practice from their system, as well as clinician learners. It was great to learn from each other and you really build up a rapport. Even now, if someone is struggling with a problem at work, we can message the WhatsApp group that had been created during our studies and ask for advice. 

3. Chose a pathway that interest you

I was drawn to the HFMA qualification because I knew I wouldn’t be able to find the health specific learning and breadth of content included anywhere else. The ‘Comparative Healthcare Systems’ module fascinated me as I wanted to learn how we compared to health systems around the world in terms of sustainability and effectiveness. The ‘Personal Effectiveness and Leadership’ module is probably the most beneficial to my current job and I regularly apply the things I learned to my role.

The ‘Creating and Delivering Value in UK Healthcare’ module turned out to be the most interesting and thought provoking one I chose. The content was so far reaching, and I know I’ll be using the general principles for the remainder of my time in the NHS. 

4. Be self-motivated

Gaining a qualification is an investment in time and effort and you’ve got to be doing it for the right reasons. I chose to study and pay for the qualification myself rather than it being a requirement of my job and I think this is one of the reasons I was successful. At the end of the day it’s important to be self-motivated and in it for the right reasons.

5. Strike the right balance

Striking the right balance is key. During the year that I studied my HFMA qualification in healthcare business and finance, I also ran a marathon, moved into a new role at work and moved house, alongside other family commitments. I hope this serves as an indication to others that completing a full diploma is highly achievable if you plan your time and are motivated to study.

6. Plan your time well

Even with the significant changes going on in my life, I still managed to complete my diploma, bettering my mark with each assignment as I improved my critical analysis. I made sure to plan my time well and prioritised at least two hours of studying a night and even more on the weekends, using annual leave to complete assignments.

The act of balancing a career, a personal life and studying a diploma has been tough for me. I did not go into it with the expectation that it wouldn’t be though. My experience has been invaluable to my professional development and career progression, and the sense of achievement has been worth the commitment. 


Want to know more? 

Find out how you could benefit from studying with the HFMA Academy.  Explore our range of healthcare business and finance qualifications here.