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Sonja McIlfatrick

Sonja McIlfatrick
  • Sonja McIlfatrick
  • Ulster University Professor & Senior Investigator

I was always interested in a career that involved working with people within the health sector and had at first considered some other alternatives. However what really drew me to a career in nursing was the opportunity to develop a career across a variety of settings, roles and specialities and the privilege of being able to get alongside people when they are at their most vulnerable and need care and support.

I started my nursing career in the late eighties and undertook a four year degree programme at the University of Ulster, which enabled me to qualify with both a BSc Hons in Nursing alongside my professional registration.  This was an important career milestone as this shaped and developed a desire for further study and education.  I subsequently continued with my academic studies, completing various Postgraduate and specialist courses and MSc. During this time I worked clinically in both acute and community care settings.

One of the most significant career milestones was my decision to undertake my PhD, whilst taking up a Lectureship in Cancer Nursing post in Ulster University. This was to be a short term 3 year position but over 15 years later I am still working in Ulster University!

Currently I work as a Professor of Nursing in the Institute of Nursing and Health Research (INHR) in Ulster. One of the key aspects I enjoy about my work is that no two days are ever the same.  So one minute I may be engaged in PhD supervision with students, and later I may be writing a paper for publication, writing a research grant application, teaching students, or hosting a workshop on strategic planning for research.

Overall I would describe my career path in nursing as flexible and extremely rewarding.  Over the last fifteen years I have worked in an academic setting, that  has included three joint appointments.  First of a Lectureship in Cancer Nursing, joint with the Cancer Centre in Belfast,  then an Assistant Director of Nursing Research and Development/Reader with one of the Health Care Trusts in Northern Ireland and more recently as the Head of Research for the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC). Each of these roles have been challenging and yet hugely rewarding.  By undertaking such roles I have been enabled to develop skills in research leadership, developing collaborations and networks and overall strategic developments for research.

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