Who is Martina Tierney?
Martina Tierney is many things.
A world-renowned Occupational Therapist. A mother. A grandmother.
A founder, a Global Clinical Director, an author and a successful business woman.
With a deep understanding of patient needs and a passion for improving the lives of others, Martina has dedicated her career to creating innovative solutions in the healthcare industry.
In 2008, continually frustrated by the chairs that her patients were using and the lack of developments in clinical seating, Martina designed her very first Seating Matters chair.
Today, Seating Matters is a global organisation, committed to helping millions of lives a year through their products and global partnerships. Martina continues to run the business with the support of her three sons, Jonathan, Martin and Ryan.
Martina, tell us a bit about yourself?
So first and foremost, I would say I’m a mother, grandmother, and an Occupational Therapist. My career has always been important to me. I became an Occupational Therapist (OT) because I always had a keen interest in the healthcare industry because my sisters worked in the caring industry as nurses. Occupational Therapy was attractive to me because it is diverse in nature; I could work and specialise in different areas such as mental health or working with children or working with older people. I felt at the time that it opened more doors for me, and I had more opportunities than I might have had in nursing.
What made you take the leap to start Seating Matters in 2008?
I suppose I was never very good at being an employee, working 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, didn’t really suit me. I like to be at work when I’m needed at work and then spend the rest of the time with my family. Although I loved dealing with my patients and enjoyed that part of the work, it just felt very restrictive. I wanted to be able to control my own time. When I founded the business, I got a lot of encouragement from my husband and my family, who were mostly self-employed and entrepreneurial in spirit.
I wanted the freedom to choose what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it and still be involved with my patients and see that I could make a difference to them. That’s how Seating Matters was established.
Seating for me was one aspect of Occupational Therapy which was very underrepresented, and I could see how, in terms of focus and design it was falling behind other pieces of equipment such as beds and mattresses.
In the early days of Seating Matters my view was to change healthcare seating, but then I realised if we were really going to make a huge difference across the world, we needed to do more than just change healthcare seating, we needed to transform healthcare seating.
To transform you have to have to modify the core beliefs and the long-term behaviour around it.
There are several core beliefs around seating. For most people they believe a chair:
- is just a piece of furniture,
- cannot cause damage or injury,
- cannot aid early mobilisation,
- cannot aid early discharge,
- has no rehab benefits to patients recovering from a variety of healthcare problems.
Who holds these beliefs? I realised that most healthcare professionals hold these beliefs including Occupational Therapists, Doctors, Nurses, and Physiotherapists. My job now is to educate, motivate and inspire these people to realise that therapeutic seating does matter, and it can transform lives.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of a career in Occupational Therapy?
I think it is a fantastic career for anyone – female and male alike. Traditionally it has been quite female dominated but we would really like to welcome more males into the industry because like any industry a mix of ideas and opinions adds value. Occupational Therapy has not only given me a career, but it has been an opportunity for my family to develop a business – a business which has grown to be much bigger than me and us.