Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Mary Ita Heffernan from Health Service Executive to give some advice for people considering this job:

Mary Ita Heffernan

Social Worker

Health Service Executive

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Mary Ita Heffernan

Whilst in secondary school, I changed my mind many a time regarding the career path I wanted to pursue! I always knew that I wanted to work with people but was unsure about the profession which would most suit my interests and skills in this regard.

While in school, I definitely found that being unsure about the type or area of work you want to pursue is a very difficult and confusing position to be in, especially given the array of career choices now available and the pressure one feels in trying to make one’s mind up.

To this end, I would strongly advise anybody in this position to research courses and job descriptions well in order to make the most informed decision possible at that time in your life. 

I recommend one tries to gain as much work experience as possible as it will provide you with valuable insight into your skills, ability, likes/dislikes for certain areas of employment!!!!

Also I would research the courses and job areas as much as possible so that you can make an informed decision regarding your choices. If you can't gain enough information in school, contact the college directly or arrange to talk to somebody who facilitates the course. In particular, it would be really valuable to talk to somebody in the profession to gain a realistic and practical insight into the job.

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Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their best operating under supervisors who give clear guidelines, and performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.

They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.
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Sinead McCool - Product Innovation Officer

Sinead McCool, a qualified pharmacist, talks to Smart Futures about her diverse career.

What is Pharmapod?

Pharmapod is a cloud-based platform that allows you to document any error or near miss that occurs during dispensing and preparation in a pharmacy, such as misreading a doctor’s handwriting or dispensing the wrong dose of medication. Recording and addressing errors allows pharmacists to prevent them happening again. Pharmapod also helps pharmacists to meet legal and regulatory requirements in this area.

What are your main responsibilities?

The product is well established in Ireland and we are pushing to move into the UK. I am liaising with pharmacy groups there, running pilots and looking at customer feedback to keep improving the product. I’m trying to make the system as user friendly and intuitive as possible.

What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?

I was always interested in Science and did Biology and Chemistry for the Leaving Cert. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I was finished, but Pharmacy was suggested to me and I’m delighted I studied it.

What did you do after school?

I did a degree in pharmacy in the UK. Then I completed a year of training in a community pharmacy to become a qualified pharmacist. I wanted to work in the clinical side of things, so I completed a clinical pharmacy diploma in the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. A few years later, I did a Masters in medical education in Queen’s University Belfast.

Can you outline your career path?

After my clinical pharmacy qualification, I worked in a hospital just outside Edinburgh. Then I worked in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin, followed by a hospital in Kilkenny. I also taught at the School of Pharmacy in Trinity College and worked for the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland. From there, I began working with the School of Pharmacy in University College Cork (UCC) as course coordinator for their masters in clinical pharmacy. Working with Pharmapod is quite different, but the skills I have from clinical pharmacy and medical safety in hospitals help me with my job.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

If you like science, pharmacy is a really interesting degree that combines biology and chemistry. It’s a broad science degree, but it includes a lot of patient-focused areas and the range of things you can do once you’re qualified is huge.

What inspires your love of science?

I tend to ask ‘why?’ a lot. Science usually gives me the answers.

Article by: Smart Futures