Ten UCC medical and nursing students born in 2000 tell us why they decided to study for a career in the health sector and what they hope the future will bring.
To help people, which a career in medicine would allow me to do in such a rewarding and privileged capacity.
That said, it was a far cry from the sole reason.
I love problem-solving and I loved science in secondary school (CBS Kilkenny), and medicine seemed to incorporate both of these, while offering so many opportunities, with so many different areas to specialise in.
I think the internet has had a massive impact on the profession.
Doctors are now faced with the challenge of dealing with patients who have already self-diagnosed using online websites, which may create trust issues, weakening the doctor-patient relationship.
The high rates of litigation. I can’t think of anything more soul-crushing than to try your very best for someone, make an honest mistake and not only to have to deal with the toll that that takes on you, both as a person and as a health professional, but to have your whole career brought to the line and scrutinised as a result.
I’d love to travel with my degree and work abroad for a few years before returning back to Ireland.
I’d love to live in Australia or New Zealand for a while — I’ve heard of a lot of interns heading over there for a few years and I’ve only heard good things.
People in my family work as doctors and I always found whatever I heard about their work to be fascinating.
I knew I would be stimulated by both the science aspect and human interaction of the profession.
In my opinion, the profession has not changed all that much in the last 20 years.
I think that the values and ideas that good doctors then had, of listening to the patient, collaborating with colleagues etc to provide the best possible care still stand.
The internet — it provides us with unlimited information and immediate communication but it also poses a challenge.
Patients can often self-diagnose before they come into the practice, at times giving them unnecessary worry or they might be seeking treatment that may not be appropriate.
I hope that when the time comes, I not only know what I want to specialise in, but that it is something that I am excited to practise every day.
Medicine was never a course I was 100% sure about. Despite a huge passion for helping others, I didn’t think the busy doctor lifestyle would be for me.
After much encouragement from my parents and teachers, I gave the Leaving Cert/HPAT my all and started studying medicine at UCC in 2018.
Significant improvements in technology have opened many doors in terms of how we interact with patients, as well as diagnose and treat diseases.
It’s also refreshing to see huge diversity in the profession. It’s become increasingly evident that medical practice is best when done by a team.
Our ageing population. While doctors have made incredible strides in improving the average lifespan, it also means that a lot more time will be spent treating chronic health conditions and cancers.
Another challenge we face is the mental health crisis in Ireland. There is still a lot more work to be done to help people who need it.
While my dream speciality changes every week, a constant goal of mine is to work closely with patients who have HIV.
From: Macroom, Co Cork
I grew up on a farm so it was between veterinary medicine and medicine. Medicine won out in the end and I’m now thinking about pursuing general practice.
I think telemedicine and the use of technology are changing how doctors are working. We’re moving away from paperwork and clipboards to doing more online and that’s a good thing.
There are also changes to the doctor-patient relationship from that, as patients are more informed when they come to see their doctor — a good thing overall.
The Covid-19 pandemic is an obvious one but, aside from that, I think staffing levels across the health service continue to be a challenge.
Issues with pay and conditions are also seeing doctors and nursing staff leaving to go to other countries like Australia and Canada.
Many will travel but you wonder will they come home or stay abroad.
I may go to Australia for a few years after I graduate to get some experience abroad. Ultimately though, I see myself returning to Ireland and probably working in a general practice in the country.
From: Cratloe, Co Clare
My dad’s a doctor and my mum is a nurse so I always grew up around healthcare. As long as I can remember there were photos of me dressed up as a doctor at the age of one and I never really changed my mind.
In Ireland patients have become a lot more informed; they often come in with their own ideas, or look for second opinions or want to know what treatments are available abroad.
I think patients deserve to know what’s out there and doctors have to appreciate that patients will ask questions more now.
Leaving the Covid-19 pandemic aside, I think there are massive issues across the health service and how hospitals are managed.
It’s harder and harder for doctors to focus on patient care and get things done as quickly as they’d like.
I’m not entirely sure what I want to specialise in. I would like to work as a hospital consultant and also to travel.
My parents both trained in the NHS and I might go to Britain after graduation and am also thinking about going to Australia or New Zealand.
I always said I wouldn’t settle here but that could change.
From: Ballincollig, Cork
Course: Mental health nursing
I have always had an interest in subjects like psychology, anatomy and sociology. I have also always wanted to study and work in a profession where I can be actively involved with people.
In terms of mental health nursing, the profession is now more focused on the model of recovery. This acknowledges that no person is the same.
Treatment is focused on the individual needs of the person and the nurse plays a huge role in providing this treatment.
This is important in order to reduce the stigma that can surround mental health illnesses.
Understaffing and underpayment. Large workloads and long shifts are also significant challenges that nurses face.
These challenges can be extremely stressful and unfortunately can portray nursing as an unappealing profession to pursue.
However, there are far more positive aspects about nursing than negative, and it is an extremely rewarding profession.
For nurses in Ireland to get greater recognition for the work they do and that the conditions they work in are improved.
I also hope to finish my degree and eventually work in an area such as cognitive behavioural therapy or community nursing.
From: Aherla, Co Cork
I decided to study midwifery because I saw how much difference they made and how much they helped and supported women throughout their pregnancy, labour and during their adaptation to motherhood.
I also wanted to be a part of a special milestone in people’s lives.
Midwives have been battling to be seen as a separate profession from nursing and in 2011 the Nurses and Midwives Act was finally passed that declared and recognised midwifery as its own entity, which it is.
The shortage of midwives. Being a midwife is such a special experience and it should be highlighted more as an option for Leaving Cert students when filling out their CAO forms.
When I qualify in three years time, I hope to complete a sonographer course. The course is expensive so I may have to work as a home-birth midwife for a while to save up.
If this is not possible, I would like to open my own birthing centre or IVF clinic. I can’t wait to finally become qualified in the career I love.
From: Glounthaune, Cork
College course: Intellectual disability nursing
The personal experience of caring for my sister who has an intellectual disability and witnessing the exceptional care many nurses have provided her with over the years, gave me the desire to become an intellectual disability nurse.
In intellectual disability nursing, care settings have become far less institutionalised and are now focused on community integration and a person-centred approach to care.
From my experience on placement as a student nurse and also working as a health care assistant in a residential setting for adults with an intellectual disability, some staff have been working with the same service users for many years and have developed a very close relationship with them.
This unique relationship, in turn, creates a higher quality and person-centred level of care for the service user.
Understaffing, where nurses are put under severe pressure to carry out their duties and responsibilities which results in burnout and increased stress levels.
Staff retention is also a big issue, especially in the intellectual disability area.
Some service users rely heavily on the familiarity of staff, and regular changes in staffing can have a big impact on their wellbeing.
Once I graduate, I hope to work within the intellectual disability services here in Cork and make a meaningful contribution to the quality of care delivered on the ground.
Course: Integrated children’s and general nursing
I thought it would be fantastic to get the dual qualification and be able to work with both children and adults.
Over the last 20 years, I feel like nurses have taken on greater leadership roles in healthcare, and have become partners with other healthcare professionals rather than being seen to work under them.
With technology constantly evolving, nurses are being trained and educated to use more tools to assist with healthcare and are taking on greater responsibility when it comes to patient medication and are also specialising in specific areas.
Meeting patient expectations. Social media and television programmes have painted certain pictures of what healthcare facilities should be like.
And I feel that sometimes if a patient is admitted to hospital and sees how busy the environment is they may get worried that they won’t get the care they need.
Of course, all nurses strive to give care of excellent standard, but the challenge they face is ensuring patients understand and trust that they will be well looked after.
One goal that I set for myself when I travelled to Kolkata with the Hope Foundation in 2018 was that I would come back one day to volunteer.
Once I have gained enough experience working as a nurse, I plan to volunteer in India for a few months to help out where I can.
This is another reason I am so thrilled to be getting a dual qualification, as the Hope Foundation works primarily with street and slum children.
An Irish citizenship campaigner from Northern Ireland is considering a bid for the Seanad after a number of Fine Gael TDs put her name forward for nomination.
From: Poulacapple, Co Tipperary
College course: General Nursing
I have always wanted to pursue a career that would involve a challenge, but also enable me to contribute and give back in some way.
Nursing was the obvious choice because it would provide the perfect balance for me, I would be working in an environment whereby I will continue to follow my passion for both science and caring for people.
In my view, it has transitioned from being task orientated towards incorporating a holistic approach of caring, that focuses on patient-centred care.
The last group of traditionally trained nurses in Cork qualified in 1999 after a three-year certificate programme, with most of the time spent in clinical.
This progressed to a diploma and then to a degree programme in 2002. There have been increased learning opportunities for nurses to progress and enhance their professional development.
For example, advanced nurse practitioner courses have been introduced since 2001 and clinical nurse specialty roles have expanded.
The pandemic has changed the way nurses deliver their care. They must use full PPE when in contact with patients with coronavirus for infection control purposes and this can be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging.
Nursing is all about building that rapport of trust, empathy and loyalty with the patient through interactions.
However, given the current situation, this can be challenging for nurses to carry out these fundamental aspects of nursing in such an environment.
I hope to be happy, healthy and fit with a good work-life balance and to become the nurse that will make a difference to a patient’s journey.
Compiled by Steve Neville, Maresa Fagan and Anna O’Donoghue