A Day in the Life of Clíona O’Shea

Medical Scientist, CHI at Crumlin

“I begin my day between 6am and 7am depending on which shift I’m rostered on. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, I love a warm bowl of Weetabix with all the toppings. Every morning I walk my hour long commute to CHI at Crumlin, weather permitting. I find that my morning walk energises and revives me. It stimulates my Scientistmind, preparing me for the dynamic day ahead in the molecular microbiology laboratory. I’m thinking about my utmost priority for the day, to ensure that the right result goes to the right patient at the right time.

‘Molecular’ as we like to call it, is located right beside the main microbiology lab. We are constantly liaising with the medical scientists in the main micro lab throughout the day. Molecular needs its own space because it needs to be really ‘clean’. Many of the tests we carry out are real-time PCR based, so we have to make sure that our work space is free from potential sources of contaminating DNA. If I’m on the early shift, I’ll be responsible for completing the morning to-do list. This includes switching on and setting up all of our instruments, making sure that they’ll have enough reagents to complete the testing for the day. I’ll also carry out multiple ‘checks’ including temperature recording in every room, and recording room pressure readings in our category three containment laboratory (where we process query – COVID19 specimens). At 9am we’ll all have a little catch up and then we’re ready for action.

You would be forgiven for thinking that in the lab we have a steady routine each day. But a nice calm day occurs rarely! We are constantly thinking on our feet and adapting to the challenges which pop up.

I have been working in molecular for only 5 months now, but one thing that has really struck me about our team here, absolutely everyone, from chief to basic grade, is on hand to help without a second thought, when we need it.

It can be stressful when instruments break down, knowing that there are patients waiting for results. But we always put our heads together to figure out how we can fix it and get the results out as quickly as possible.

Aside from carrying out the tests, I also have other tasks to fit into my day. I run quality control samples, order stock, prepare batches of reagents, perform batch acceptance testing on them, and fill out documentation on all of the above. I also try to work on my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and do some reflective practise where I can. One of the things I look forward to most is discussing new tests and new instruments with my chief.

Molecular microbiology is fascinating to me because it’s constantly and rapidly evolving. It’s exciting trying to source the most sensitive, specific and time effective tests for our patients.

I try to leave work every day feeling that I’ve helped out as much as possible wherever I can. That when someone was stuck or overwhelmed with tasks, I lent a helping hand. I can then leave content, and hop on the LUAS home.

Unwinding for me consists of hiking, running, cycling or being on the farm at home in Kerry. I love nature and being outside. In non-pandemic times I quite enjoyed travelling too!

On a final note, I would consider the ‘treasure’ of CHI at Crumlin to be the people in it, from all departments. I have experienced nothing but kindness and a sense of togetherness since the day I arrived.”