Megan Creegan – Higher Certificate in Health and Exercise Science

Name: Megan Creegan

From: Longford

School: Cnoc Mhuire Secondary School, Granard

Further Study: BSc (Hons) in Physiotherapy at University of Salford, Manchester

Current Job: Physiotherapist with the HSE

I’ve always wanted to work within the healthcare field. Prior to attending ATU Sligo, I was actually studying Economics & Mathematics in UCD in Dublin. I was going to become a secondary school teacher. However, one of my friends who I lived with for a summer in Australia was a physio and she definitely helped solidify my want to become a physiotherapist. I managed to hang on in UCD for just the first year before I decided to go ahead and drop out to pursue a career in physiotherapy. I had heard of the course in ATU Sligo and how beneficial it was for people I knew from home who were now physiotherapists. The course itself ticked all the boxes for me and the modules covered were very relatable to physiotherapy in terms of anatomy and communication, so that ultimately helped my decision. I was also going in knowing that on completion of this course it would help me gain entry into an undergraduate physiotherapy course in the UK or Ireland.

Without sounding too cheesy, I loved everything about the course! I think that was down to the interest I had in each module I took. This was also helped massively by the lecturers. You are not just treated like a number in ATU Sligo! They taught the modules with great enthusiasm and passion, all of which crossed over to us students. What I loved the most was their selflessness and willingness to help out in any way they could, something I hadn’t felt in my previous college experience. We all felt like we could bring anything to the lecturers. They would go out of their way to help you out.

There’s also a great emphasis on the practical element to each module. Whether you’re in a laboratory running tests or dissections, in the gym learning different exercises, palpating & drawing muscles on classmates, presentations – the list goes on! So if you’re a hands on learner like I am, you will love the blended approach between theory and practical classes.

I also loved the variety of the modules and topics covered. Working towards becoming a physiotherapist, you need to have a great understanding of not only the anatomy but also how to communicate with people in a professional manner, calling on knowledge of different determinants of health and implementing them, using your knowledge on exercise as a form of medication and treatment for people, plus lots more. All of these were modules covered throughout my time at ATU Sligo. You gain an in depth understanding of the science and psychology behind the benefits of exercise in terms of people’s health and how that can affect them and people around them also.

I really enjoyed the Exercise Physiology and Functional Kinesiology modules that are taught in second year of the course. The topics covered in both of these along with the rest of the modules, of course, I found really interesting. I especially enjoyed going to the practical classes where we got to physically palpate muscles and carry out different exercise testing in the performance lab. I’m a very hands on kind of learner so that’s probably why I liked those two specifically.

Communication is a huge skill I took with me from Sligo. Being a physio, you need to communicate in an appropriate manner with either the patient sitting in front of you, their families and/or the multidisciplinary team within a hospital or clinical setting. As it is an autonomous profession also, you have to be confident in the way in which you work or communicate with your patients and coworkers. I definitely gained a lot of this confidence from the various presentations and practical exams while studying in Sligo.

Along with communication I would say time management would also be a key skill to have. Throughout my time in Sligo we had lots of presentations and other assignments, all of which had some sort of deadline. Especially within the physio world, you have to have good time management skills. Once again, throughout my time in Sligo, I definitely upskilled in this area too.

The course is definitely a great asset to anybody thinking of studying physio, occupational therapy, radiography – to be honest the list goes on. Every single module I covered in my time in ATU Sligo – and I mean every single one – has helped me more than I could have even imagined in the physio course I’m currently studying. Everything I am studying now relates to what we were taught in Health and Exercise Science.

From my own experience, anybody wanting to get into a career in physiotherapy need not look any further than this course in Sligo, the modules link up with everything you’ll be learning and will help you have those foundations set before you move on into a physio course whether that be in Ireland or the UK.

When I was studying in my second year in ATU Sligo, I had applied through UCAS to the University of Salford to study their BSc (Hons) in Physiotherapy undergraduate degree. The degree itself is three years long instead of the traditional four years in Irish universities. Salford University is ranked first in the UK for both student satisfaction and graduate prospects. I got offered a conditional place on the course, meaning I had to obtain a certain grade within Health and Exercise Science at ATU Sligo. Thankfully, I achieved this and as a result was offered a spot on the course to start that September. I moved over with a friend who also got accepted to Salford to study physio. We both left ATU Sligo with the Higher Certificate in Health and Exercise Science.

Now in Manchester, I went on a work placement a few months ago. I got placed on a stroke ward in Salford Royal Hospital. Funnily enough, my clinical educator was actually from Mayo! I learnt a lot from that placement. Stroke is the type of physiotherapy I want to pursue and I found it beneficial to see the ins and outs of that side of physio, considering physio itself has many different pathways you can take.

On placement, I got to get involved with various patients within the stroke ward. The patients varied in age so it was important to build up a rapport with each individual. I got to take what we call a subjective assessment, which basically involves talking to the patients if their speech hadn’t been affected by their stroke in order to gain a medical history from them. From this, I then had to write up SOAP notes which are notes written from each member of the MDT that’s dealing with the patient. This means there is a record kept and their rehabilitation progress can be monitored in line with getting them home as soon as possible so they can get back to their normal activities of daily living.

I was also involved in assessing the patients in terms of their musculoskeletal abilities. A lot of the stroke patients were suffering with a hemiparesis, so half of their body couldn’t move. I was also working with dysphasia, which means they were left with the inability to generate speech. Once again, this is why communication is so vital to the role. Being able to mark and see the progress patients were making was so rewarding and definitely made you feel like you were making a big difference to their rehabilitation goals.

To anybody thinking about this career path – do it! Honestly, the course in Sligo has stood to me more than I could have thought. I’ll be forever grateful to the lecturers that helped me throughout my time in ATU Sligo. The foundation set for you in Sligo will stand massively to you wherever you end up. I found it that bit easier to grasp an understanding of the topics in the various modules being taught in my first year of being in Salford.

From those starting in ATU Sligo in the near future – enjoy every minute of it! Aside from the huge amount of courses on offer, there is also a big emphasis on engaging in clubs and societies and getting a great college experience. It is more than just study after all! I’ve made friends for life from not only my course, but the ladies GAA team and I still talk to a few of the girls on a regular basis. Get stuck in from the start! College life is great in general, but it’s even better in ATU Sligo!

Since graduating from the University of Salford I have moved back to Ireland and now work as a Physiotherapist with the HSE.

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