Mairead O’Connor learned from an early age to socialise with people with learning disabilities just like she would anyone else. Her mother was a learning disabilities nurse so she grew up accustomed to having her mum’s patients stop by and play.

“I grew up with that and so I wanted to do that too.” Following a nursing degree at Napier University in Edinburgh, Mairead worked in the NHS then joined specialist care facility ASC.

“There’s a huge emphasis on activities here at ASC and everything is person-centred, meaning we cater to individuals’ needs, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution,” says Mairead of the Balbeggie based facility, which provides residential care for adults with learning disabilities, histories of mental health issues, and challenged behaviours.”

Mairead is a firm advocate of the private health model when it comes to treating adults with special care needs. “I feel like elsewhere there’s a structure and you have to work around it. Here, the structure works around the service users.”

Mairead’s job as lead nurse at ASC involves developing and following care plans for service users, working with local authorities and other agencies to ensure that individuals’ needs are being supported, and making sure the right environmental support is there for residents.

What sort of person is it suited for? “It’s a huge job,” she says. “It’s for people who really care and are dedicated. It’s for people who are willing to treat this as more than just a job, but as a career, as a vocation.”

The rewards in nursing roles, she says, are rapid progression and the sorts of responsibilities you may have to wait longer for in the public sector.