Making your mind up: Why choose health sciences?
Not everyone who wants to work in health sciences chooses to become a doctor
Nurses are trained to be reliable and dedicated, with excellent people skills and attention to detail – all qualities valued by employers in academia, research, occupational health and other roles
Becoming a doctor is one of the most cherished childhood dreams, and many people who put down medicine on the CAO form have long harboured this ambition. Of course, aspiring medical students will already have sat the HPat, a test designed to screen applicants for their suitability to work as a doctor – so it’s a little too late to change your mind at this point: your options include applying for UL’s postgraduate medicine course in a few years, or reapplying to the CAO next year.
Entry points for medicine are among the highest for all college courses. But not everyone who wants to work in health sciences chooses to become a doctor, and there are plenty of other routes worth considering including nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy and dentistry.
Nursing is one of the most popular and widely available courses, and all seven of the universities as well as St Angela’s College in Sligo and many of the institutes of technology offer one or more of general, paediatric, psychiatric or intellectual disability nursing. Globally, there is a shortage of nurses and, in an international market, Ireland is struggling to compete, creating a situation where many of our trained nurses are emigrating for better pay and conditions while much of the shortfall is being filled by nurses from other countries, especially in Asia. While the popular image of nursing has them attending bedsides, nurses also work in GP clinics, nursing homes, hospices, community settings and the armed forces.
But trained nurses may not end up in any of these places; nurses are trained to be solid, reliable, unflappable and dedicated, with excellent people skills and attention to detail – all qualities valued by employers in academia, research, occupational health and many other roles. Nurses may be the most flexible of the all the health professionals.
Students with pharmacy degrees are in high demand, wanted to work in pharmacies as well as with some of the major pharmaceutical employers across Ireland. Courses can be found at RCSI, UCD and Trinity and, as medicine becomes more complex, the long-term employment prospects are excellent.
Meanwhile, physiotherapy remains a very popular option for students and one where job prospects in Ireland, although not brilliant, have been steadily improving in recent years. Courses are available at RCSI, Trinity College, UCD and UL, while students who don’t quite make it could also consider athletic therapy and training at DCU or sport rehabilitation and athletic therapy at IT Carlow.