‘I’m changing career at the age of 33’

How I did it: Niamh McTiernan did two PLC courses in pre-nursing before university

Niamh McTiernan: ‘I’ve just started a new job at GTI so I have finished up with nursing.’

Niamh McTiernan: ‘I’ve just started a new job at GTI so I have finished up with nursing.’


I didn’t get the points for nursing when I did the Leaving Cert in 2005. I was only 17, and I was disappointed because I always wanted to be a nurse.

I did a PLC course in pre-nursing but didn’t get the award to go on to university. So I took a year out, went travelling and, in 2007, convinced the Galway Technical Institute (GTI) – now part of Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board – to give me another chance at the pre-nursing course.

I knew I had to knuckle down, and I got so much support and guidance from the teachers. In 2008, I got eight distinctions that allowed me to progress on to university.

Myself and a friend from the course both got places in the University of Brighton, where we studied nursing for three years. The pre-nursing course had included anatomy and physiology, nursing theory and practice, communications and a weekly work experience day, which I spent in a nursing home, so we already had an advantage.

I went on to work as an intensive care nurse, later did a mentorship course and worked at University Hospital Galway and, in 2016, did a masters degree in nursing for intensive care.

Nursing education

I realised I had so much to thank GTI for and was drawn to teach. So in 2019 I started a postgraduate course in nursing education, coming out this year with a first.

I had to do 100 hours of teaching practice as part of the course, and it was so rewarding: getting students engaged and seeing that something had clicked with them was so different from nursing and it made me see how much I loved teaching.

The past year was tough, and the third wave of the pandemic was the worst for my colleagues and me. I’m so proud of our unit though and how we took care of patients and their families.

I’ve just started a new job at GTI so I have finished up with nursing, but I will keep doing some agency shifts in the summer to help me keep my skills up; nursing is an area where you need to be knowledgeable of all the evidence-based changes.

I’ve been an ICU nurse for 10 years, and now I’m changing career at the age of 33. If I can provide my students with the student-centred experience that I had, where I got so much support and guidance, I will be so happy, and I hope they will be too. My whole career stems from the PLC course at GTI and I am so grateful to them.

Careers in Nursing will be discussed at the 2021 Higher Options expo. For more information go to higheroptions.vfairs.com