Lucky Charm: Kerry O’Rourke

Working and Living as a Nurse in Ireland

irish nurse

Kerry is a cardiothoracic nurse working, living and soaking in all of the beauty Dublin, Ireland has to offer. Some might say she is a sports fanatic, it’s no myth. It was clear she grew up in Ohio after she joked, “LeBron, the greatest since Jordan!” After graduating from Boston College (she tells us she’s a “HUGE” Boston Red Sox fan), Kerry moved to The Big Apple to work as a new grad at New York Presbyterian. And yes, she’s a Giants fan too. We wanted to get the scoop on what nursing in Ireland is all about and Kerry gave us all the deets!

What was your first experience with nursing? 

 I first considered nursing as a career for me in high school. When babysitting for a family with a child with special needs, I realized my affinity for caring for those who may be in a vulnerable state and encouraging them to reach and maybe even surpass their potential. That’s what nurses do: help patients help themselves!

What advice would you give someone considering nursing as a profession?

If you are thinking about nursing as a career, give it a try! My advice would be to use your classmates or coworkers for support when you need it! Nurses love to support other nurses because we all know it can be a tough career at times (but very rewarding) and we have all been on the other side of needing someone to support us through something.

We’ve recently talked a lot about building a personal and professional brand as a nursing professional, what’s your take on this? How do you do this yourself?

My personal and professional brand: Definitely very important, especially when it comes to interviewing for new jobs! If you are working in a particular field, look to see if there are certifications that correlate with that field. I have always worked in either cardiac medicine or cardiothoracic surgery. I am a Progressive Care Certified Nurse in order to complement my experience in those “step-down” areas. When I move to the ICU, I will look to get certified as a Critical Care Nurse. I would describe my professional brand as “Competent and Confident Cardiothoracic Nurse.” In regards to my personal brand, I want future employers, coworkers, and patients to see that I am compassionate, empathetic, and also fun! I include any involvement in volunteer organizations (for me… Best Buddies, Special Olympics) in my resumes and profiles and I am happy to talk about what I do outside of work as well (travel, biking, any great spots in the city) with potential employers or whoever!

How did you decide that nursing in Ireland was going to work for you? Did you do any research beforehand, what were your resources?

irish nurseI moved to Ireland for personal reasons more so than professional reasons. I always considered that a huge benefit to nursing as a career – we need nurses everywhere worldwide so there’s always a job wherever you decide to live. Before moving to Ireland, I reached out to a few Irish nurses (friends and family, mostly) to have frank conversations about what nursing is like compared to here. I feel like I knew what to expect before moving.

What was the process to get your license in Ireland?

I had to send an application to the Nursing Board of Ireland to transfer my New York State license to an Irish license. The process took about a year and consisted of a lot of paperwork. At the end of the day, I was successful and now I am licensed both in NY State and Ireland.

In what ways has nursing in Ireland challenged you?

Nursing in a different country was certainly a transition. For one, I have to try extra hard to understand the thick accents of some of my patients! Many of the common drugs have different trade names and even sometimes different generic names (ex. acetaminophen is paracetamol in Ireland). Any time you change jobs (even within the states) you have a few different hospital systems, protocols, or policies, and sometimes different equipment. My hospital in Ireland still uses paper charts (do you know how hard it is to understand doctor’s handwriting!) while my previous hospital was completely computerized. With time, you get the hang of it!

What do you want all of us nurses in the states to know about how things are done differently (for worse or for better) over there?

Overall, nursing is the same in Ireland as it is in the States. Patient-centered and evidence-based nursing practice is at the heart of nursing here and there. The anatomy, diseases, and treatment of patients are the same. The spectrum of human emotions are the same. The major difference lies within the country-wide healthcare system. I have found that in America, hospitals have put measures in place to ensure safe nurse-to-patient ratios. In Ireland, most hospitals are short-staffed so it would be common to have 10-12 or more patients to one nurse. I know Ireland is working on changing but that costs the country a lot of money to hire more nurses and raise their salaries!

Is your scheduling the same? Nights and days? 12 hour shifts? Do you get breaks?

Scheduling is the same. I work 3 or 4 12-hour shifts in a week. I work days but the staff rotates onto nights. So every 4-6 weeks, everyone has to do 7 night shifts over 2 weeks. I get three breaks in a day – 30 minutes for breakfast, 45 for lunch, and 30 again in the evening. At nights – 30 minutes for dinner, 1.5 hour to do whatever (usually sleep in the break room). The nurses and managers make sure you always take your break! As a nurse, there’s almost always something you need to be doing for your patients but you have to remember to stop and take care of yourself too or else it could be worse off for the patients.

Do you plan to move back to the US? If so, what would you miss most about Ireland? 

I do plan to move back to the US in a few years but I will always leave the door open to going back to Ireland again. When I move back here, I think I will miss my patients most. I am generalizing here, but Irish patients are absolutely delightful to take care of! They are very appreciative of nurses, they are great conversationalists, and they always try to help themselves first!

What do you think is in store for the future of nursing? 

The future of nursing is very bright, both at home and in Ireland! I think the profession will continue on the trajectory that it has been on for the last few decades… increased knowledge base, increased skill sets, increased turn out of brilliant nurses! The profession is the backbone of most hospitals and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. In the future of healthcare, I think the trend will move more from hospital-focused to community-focused and therefore more nurses will be needed in the community in the next couple decades.

What about for your nursing career?

The future of my nursing career: Next step is the ICU for me. Down the line, I would like to move from bedside nursing to the classroom or nursing education in some way but not before I rack up a lot a lot of experience at the bedside. In order to do that, I know I will be returning back to school first to further my own education and get the necessary degrees to be a nurse educator.

irish nurseHealthiest habit for work days: Always have a water bottle at the nurses station! It’s too easy to go a whole shift without drinking any water or ever going to the bathroom!
My work morning usually starts with…  snoozing my alarm at least once
Go-to meal that I pack for work: Left overs from the dinner I cooked the night before. And if I don’t have that… PB&J plus fruit.
Favorite thing to do on a day off: Bike ride in Phoenix Park, Dublin.
Favorite app: Strava
Clogs or sneakers? Clogs! (Dansko specifically)
If I wasn’t a nurse, I would probably be…in finance or business (something very drastically different)
Compression stockings, compression socks, or neither? Compression socks!
My aversion: very strong smelling (insert any word… poop, puke, wound, drainage, etc). your average smelly poop, yuck but fine. your cdiff poop.. eek!
Go-to-caffeine: Used to be coffee, now it’s Irish breakfast tea
Chelsea Rolfes
Chelsea, an Ohio native, is a Medical-Surgical nurse who began her nursing career in Chicago and soon after became a travel nurse. Chelsea’s zest for life and adventure has brought her to Seattle, Denver, San Diego, San Francisco and Austin. She has developed a true passion for health and wellness and aims to be an inspiration for those around her. She uses her Instagram account, @healthy_withchelsea, as a platform to showcase her recipes, food photography, and her active, healthy lifestyle from city to city. She can’t wait to see where her enthusiasm for living a happy, healthy life will take her in the future!