If I spoke with my 18-year-old self, I would say, "have the confidence to take all the opportunities that come your way – believe in yourself, and things will always work out!"
Aisling Curran, Learning Disability Service Manager, Belfast Health & Social Care Trust
After qualifying as an Occupational Therapist, Aisling moved from Dublin to work in mental health services within HSCNI.
She spent a number of years working as a practitioner in a variety of settings where she developed a keen interest in the impact of work on the social and mental wellbeing of service users.
She has held a number of management posts since this time, holding to her core values: respect and understanding the views of service users and their carers in shaping not only their own recovery but the overall service.
Last year, Aisling took up the Service Manager post in the Trust’s Learning Disability Service. In a short period of time, Aisling has initiated a number of significant initiatives, building strong networks across the Trust and with external stakeholders, challenging the many myths and stereotypes of the capabilities of clients with learning disabilities. One of these initiatives – an innovative employability programme leading to permanent employment opportunities – will be launched by the Trust this April.
Do you have a female role model who has inspired you in your career?
As a student in Dublin, I worked with Stanislaus Kennedy who had started working with homeless people in Dublin. Thirty years later, she heads a charity, Focus Ireland, that supports homeless people re-establishing their lives. As a young student, I saw the humanity in all she did — her absolute respect for everyone she was with and the importance of seeing everyone’s needs as individual to them. I think that this sits so well with the work that we do, having our service users and their carers central, whether it is in relation to direct care or service development.
What has been your defining career moment?
A few years ago, I was nominated by my peers for a Merit Award from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists for the work I had done in developing the Occupational Therapy service in Mental Health & Learning Disability – I was very humbled to receive this award, and while it was an individual award, I felt that it reflected the work done by a great team of committed occupational therapy staff; we had learned together with our central focus on our service users, and this had led to our success. As the American poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou said: “if you get, give; if you learn, teach”
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self (or any young woman reading this)?
If I spoke with my 18-year-old self, I would say, “have the confidence to take all the opportunities that come your way – believe in yourself, and things will always work out!”
Tell us one surprising fact about yourself.
Because I married a man with the same surname, I apparently have the “cure” for whooping cough!
What’s next for you in your career?
We are just on the cusp of some very exciting work in learning disability in terms of a Social Enterprise café and positive action in recruitment of adults with a learning disability to work as part of the wider trust – I would hope to see this well established within the Trust and then…