Shortly after graduating with a degree in speech and language therapy from Trinity College Dublin in 2013, Sarah Doran got a temporary job as a home help for the elderly. Although she had been offered only four hours a week, the social welfare office stopped her Jobseekers’ Allowance.
She couldn't afford to keep working. Instead, she spent her time applying for speech and language therapy jobs, attending training courses and conferences and volunteering at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire and Enable Ireland in Sandymount.
She was due to start volunteering at Temple Street Children's Hospital when she was offered a permanent job with the National Health Service in the UK. She moved to Berkshire last year. She works with children with speech, language and communication needs in early-intervention services and mainstream schools.
"The biggest difference I have seen between the NHS and the HSE is the waiting times," she says. "In my NHS Trust, children under the age of five can access an initial assessment by attending a drop-in clinic, no appointment necessary.
“This means there is no waiting list at all for assessment of preschool aged children. For therapy, these children wait a maximum of 14 weeks.
“In schools, we have a very consultative model. We provide a lot of training for class teachers and teaching staff, so they can support the children within the school environment. The children are more likely to generalise the skills they are learning and we are able to reach many more children.”
In the past 18 months, she has attended training courses in such areas as Makaton, a simplified sign language. She believes she has received much more training than she would have in a similar graduate position in Ireland, where “funding is a lot more limited”.
“I am very happy working for the NHS at the moment. I am getting brilliant experience and training opportunities. It’s so satisfying working in a supportive culture where you can really make a difference, so I intend to stay here in the short term. I would like to move back to Ireland eventually, but I have no immediate plans to do so.
“A lot of my Irish friends who work for the NHS intend to return to Ireland at some point, but there are some who intend to stay in the UK. I would be more inclined to return if I knew there would be opportunities for training and career development,” says Ms Doran.
“I would find it really frustrating to work in a service if I didn’t feel I was making an impact and supporting people. So I would like to see shorter waiting times for children and adults requiring speech and language therapy and more support for children in schools.”