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My role as a senior Lecturer (Education) is a recent appointment with Queens University Belfast and I have responsibilities for teaching, developing and leading the BSc Learning Disabilities Nursing programme. Prior to this appointment, I held an academic appointment as College Lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, University College Cork (UCC) for 12 years. My current role has allowed me to forge new links with practice in the North and has given me many opportunities to engage with practice, research and most of all teaching.
In 1992 I qualified as a Registered Nurse in Intellectual Disability in St James School of Nursing, COPE Foundation, Cork in the Republic of Ireland. In 2002, I returned to University College Cork to undertake my BSc in Nursing primary degree and over a twelve year period I undertook further education and hold two Masters degrees (MA; MSc) as well as a Doctor in Nursing (DN) degree which I successfully completed in 2014.
My career started in the late 1980’s when I began working in learning disabilities services as a Care Assistant. For me, this was probably one of the most important professional developments as I became very passionate about supporting those with learning disabilities. This was because I had the privilege of working with some fantastic Learning Disabilities Nurses who saw potential in me. I was encouraged to progress my career and subsequently enrolled in the Intellectual Disabilities Nursing programme in Cork in 1988.
Going back to third level education in 2002 as a student to undertake my BSc Nursing degree was another of those highlights. Again it was those people I met along the way who encouraged and facilitated me with wonderful opportunities in terms of pursuing a career in education. I loved working in clinical practice but also felt that I could be an educator that students could learn from.
Even though I was determined to stop studying after successfully completing my primary degree I continued with my studies for another 10 years and one of the most intense and enjoyable experiences was graduating with a Doctor in Nursing degree (DN) in 2014. I never in my lifetime imagined that I would reach that level of academic achievement as when I left school at the age of 18, those opportunities were just not available. I recently had to submit a short bio in relation to a conference and when I read it, I thought oh my, on paper I looked so boring but in reality, my life has turned out so differently and I am still experiencing so many other highlights because of my Learning Disabilities qualification!!!
One of my most recent highlights is being appointed as a Senior Lecturer in Queens University Belfast. I was born in Cork, worked in Cork and never left Cork and to make the decision to move to the ‘North’ was probably one of those big decisions in my life that I never ever thought I’d get the opportunity to make! What a decision, I technically moved country, had to do a ‘right to work’ interview, had to get used to the sterling but more importantly get use to the Northern Ireland accents! And here I am in the North because of my Learning disabilities nursing qualification. Who knew!!
Firstly, it has got to be the student nurses in Queens! They are so engaging, so interesting and passionate about Learning Disabilities Nursing. It fills me with great satisfaction to see their growth and potential as they step into diverse and rewarding roles. They too have demonstrated their passion for Learning Disabilities Nursing and it is fantastic to see the range of clinical experiences that this course provides them with. Meeting so many new people across the University and services has been very interest and exciting as well.
My advice would be to say yes to every opportunity!!
I started working as a care Assistant and have held roles as a Staff Nurse, Clinical Placement Coordinator, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and feel very empowered to call myself a Learning Disabilities Nurse.
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