Working Life: Nan Kearney, senior occupational therapist

My role is to optimise the independence of stroke patients.


I work part time at the Mercy University Hospital acute stroke unit, so I need to plan my day carefully.

I begin with a case meeting where the team review patients. We also have a more formal multidisciplinary meeting weekly.

The five-bed unit is the only acute stroke unit in the city.

We opened in January and have a dedicated clinical nurse specialist and part-time occupational therapist. The focus is on providing rapid access, treatment and start early rehabilitation for stroke patients, for whom time is of the essence.

This has been highlighted through the Health Service Executive’s FAST campaign which pinpoints symptoms of stroke.


My role is to optimise the independence of stroke patients and to work towards their safe discharge.

I spend a portion of the morning reviewing their functional activities — such as feeding, washing, dressing, using the bathroom, grooming — all the very personal day-to-day stuff.

There can be significant perceptual challenges such as bumping off obstacles, or ignoring food on one side of a plate.

We can help train patients to scan more effectively, or use stroke affected limbs appropriately. We have “adaptive” aids and equipment to help.


I bring patients to a kitchen area to observe and analyse their cognitive abilities such as planning and judgement and their physical abilities such as balance while carrying out household tasks — making tea and toast etc..


I also do home visits where I review a patient’s safety awareness and organise minor modifications that improve their ability to function independently — installing handrails or a bath seat.

I also liaise with other community services , discharge destinations and supports — the stroke rehabilitation unit in St Finbarr’s Hospital, HEADWAY and Cork Stroke Group.

I spend some time doing non-patient contact work.


The unit operates around the clock with the team reviewing new admissions in the Emergency Department so there’s a new set of patients for me the next day.

I live in the city with my one-year-old and my husband. Child number two is on the way, but luckily, we have plenty of family and friends around to babysit.

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