Day in the Life with physiotherapist Caitriona O’Shaughnessy | Enable Ireland

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Day in the Life with physiotherapist Caitriona O’Shaughnessy

Physiotherapist Caitriona on a climbing frame 

“One thing I love about my job is that there is no typical 9-5 day. There is a lot of variety. I see children who are just a few months old, up to teenagers and everything in between. Every day is completely different. I can find myself in a clinic setting, in a school or in a child’s home. I may have a hydrotherapy session in a swimming pool one day and a hippotherapy session on a horse the next. For example, I am working with one child whose family has reported he has difficulties walking through woods and this is an activity they want to be able to enjoy doing as a family. So I am going along with them for a walk in the woods so that I can observe and assess the difficulties that the child is having and put a plan together so that we can figure out how to work around it. Everything we do is centred on the child’s and families’ needs.

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I’ve worked in different countries and different settings throughout my career so I have lots of experience to compare working with Enable Ireland to. I am very happy working with Enable Ireland and I love this job. For me, it scores high on both job satisfaction and work life balance. Unlike working in a hospital where you have shift work or can be on call, working on a Children’s Disability Network Team, means more regular hours and I have a nice structure to my working life. It means I can still commit to my football training in the evenings. The benefits are good working with Enable as well. My job satisfaction is very high. Having earned the trust of my management, I am given free rein to design what I want to do in terms of my programmes, following best practice guidelines. As long as you efficiently manage your time and meet the needs of the families, there is a lot of flexibility in making your own schedule based on what you need to do that day.  I am really interested in advancing my own field of physiotherapy and my manager has supported my wish to carry out research within my working environment. Enable Ireland also supports staff who wish to carry out research and has an ethical committee to help with designing research projects. It is a lovely team to work on and an enjoyable place to work in.

An important part of job satisfaction is seeing the actual benefit of the work we do with children and families. We get to work with children from a young age and you become like a part of their family. When you see them doing well it is extremely rewarding.

You can see them improving and see their happiness. It’s very satisfying to have played a part in that. Children are also extremely resilient and naturally positive and determined which makes them more eager to engage in therapy which makes my job a lot easier and more enjoyable.

I work on a very close knit team in the Children’s Disability Network Team in Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath. It is a lot more enjoyable to work alongside other therapists from other disciplines, like occupational or speech and language therapy. We hold sessions together, which could be a 1:1 session or a group session and when working with younger children we usually run these in a play environment. For example, we have a group session for young children aged 2-5 with Down Syndrome where I am working jointly on gross motor skills and communication skills with the speech and language therapist. We have developed a programme together for this group to meet the needs of these children.

Working on a team has also increased my own learning and understanding of different disabilities. I am working on a group for parents of children who have been recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and being on that group I have learnt more about appropriate language to use when talking to autistic children. Ensuring I use the most appropriate approaches to reflect neurodiversity will help me in my own work with children.

The children who come to Enable Ireland for support have complex needs. They can have physical, intellectual or sensory disabilities and would have a variety of conditions. As a physiotherapist, most of my case load would be physical disabilities like Cerebral Palsy or Spina Bifida. For younger children with Down Syndrome I would support them through the key developmental milestones and for autistic children I might be working on co-ordination difficulties.

One thing I am always looking out for is how a child can engage in sport or physical activities in their community. You want to find something that the child enjoys doing physically so that they can be fit and healthy for life. I work with families to educate and support them finding these activities and sometimes that means looking outside the box to find the activity that their child enjoys. Not everyone wants to be in a team based sport, but there are lots of other options out there.”

Caitriona is from Ashbourne, Co. Meath. She graduated as a physiotherapist in 2011 and left Ireland working in Singapore first and then on to North Carolina in the US. Caitriona has worked as a physiotherapist in pediatrics in a variety of settings from hospital, clinic and community based. She returned to Ireland in 2019 and joined the Enable Ireland team in 2020.   

Enable Ireland makes a real difference in the lives of thousands of children and adults with disabilities. In 2022, we were voted one of Ireland’s best 150 Employers in a Sunday Independent survey. A progressive and flexible organisation; we have a strong culture of children and family first. We provide a supportive environment for our employees, excellent training opportunities, and pathways to continued professional development and career progression.

Right now, we have a variety of clinical, therapy and support job opportunities nationwide.

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