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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The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with clever technology. They will often follow the latest developments in their chosen field, and prefer mentally stimulating environments.
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Choosing Medicine at UCD

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Why medicine specifically? I couldn’t tell you. Perhaps because it’s the healthcare career everyone is most familiar with, or perhaps I thought it would give me the most chance to flex my academic biceps. Perhaps, and probably most likely, I was just too ill informed to consider the other healthcare professions, such as physiotherapy, radiography or nursing. So from secondary school onwards, I had the profession chosen, and all that was left to decide was where!

The are 5 universities where it is possible to study Medicine as an undergraduate in Ireland – UCD, RCSI, UCC, NUIG and Trinity. Of those, the most competitive are the Dublin options, probably due to their location rather than anything else. For me, there was no opposition – UCD was the clear winner. I figured that any of the above universities could give me a medical degree, but what UCD could offer was so much more. Like I said, I was looking for a degree with a scientific element, but without losing the social aspect. In UCD, I could have the best of both world’s – my course would prepare me for the working world ahead, and UCD’s boundless supply of clubs, societies and other social gatherings would ensure I’d come out well-rounded.

Of course, the real question isn’t why I chose it at the time, it’s whether I have any regrets since making that decision. Thankfully, UCD really is the college for me, and amazingly my time here has not only met but succeeded my expectations! The course itself is logically structured, with clear progression from basic sciences, to normal anatomy and physiology, and finally pathology and pharmacology. Some would argue that Pre-Med is an unnecessary year, however I found that it gave time to form bonds with my classmates that really became important only years later, when the stress levels were highest this social support was most valuable. The facilities in UCD have provided fantastic resources, and unlike other universities, the opportunities for students to engage in structured research programmes are endless, and there’s also a chance to add an extra year and graduate with a Masters.

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Outside of the course, I’ve had the chance to learn so many new things that I never thought I would when I came to college – kayaking, scuba diving, martial arts… these are just a few of the random skills I’ve picked up so far. I’ve met some great people through extra-curricular activities, whether that be volunteering, sports or societies. Through UCD and the UCD Medical school I’ve also been lucky enough to travel abroad with my summers, taking me as far as Delhi in India and Boston in the USA. For those that shun all these extra-curriculars as time wasting activities, they’re actually pretty handy to put on a CV, and often it’s those little extras that make you stand out from the crowd.

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So if I could go back and do it all again, what would I change? Nothing. UCD Medicine is still my top choice of course and university, and together have given me a far more rounded experience than I could ever have asked for anywhere else!


Article by: UCD