From Movement Therapy to Director

Irene Christen started her career as an occupational therapist and has been managing director since 2018.


From Movement Therapy to Management

Irene Christen (LinkedIn) always wanted to work closely with people. This is why she chose to become an occupational therapist. Fresh out of university, she joined cereneo as their first occupational therapist in 2012. A fitting role that allowed her to engage with and provide daily support to neurorehabilitation patients and their families.


While working as a therapist, she felt the need to also take on responsibility for the organisational aspects in her work environment and to contribute in a way that would ensure improvements of various organisational processes. It did not take long before she got involved in all kinds of different projects and eventually took over as managing director in 2018.


Read more about her career path and why neurorehabilitation is such an exciting field to work in, in the interview below.


What makes neurorehabilitation such an interesting field to work in and how is this translated into your own function?


‘’What makes many jobs in the field of neurorehabilitation so exciting is the required mix between analytical thinking and social skills.


For specialists to determine the best possible treatment for their patients, it is of paramount importance to base it on the findings of scientific research. Evidence-based work is a must to ensure the patients’ success and analytical decision making in the treatment path is crucial.


Scientific training yields many benefits. That is why we encourage all staff to further educate themselves in the area of research. This can happen in more than one way. Either through extra- occupational university studies focussing on research in the area of rehabilitation or therapy; through participating in clinical studies to generate more evidence-based facts or in daily clinical work courtesy of journal clubs.


But apart from these scientific requirements towards therapy, care and medical staff, one needs to possess top skills in the fields of empathy and communication and enjoy working directly with people.


This high demand on social skills is not only required from medical professionals but also from team leaders or as managing directors. Appropriate communication and empathy for the staff and other stakeholders is of high importance. Besides that, analytical thinking is also required from the role of managing director. My background as a therapist, my Master of Science in Occupational Therapy and concepts of Business Administration provide me with a good toolbox for the daily challenges at cereneo. This toolbox supports me in communicating with all different kinds of stakeholders.’’


Why did you decide to continue learning?


‘’I was given the time and space to try out my own ideas, which I felt had a positive influence on me as a therapist and as a person. It kept me curious and as I was confronted with new challenges I wanted to continue learning and expand my toolbox. On the one hand, learning by doing kept me motivated all the time. On the other hand, I was curious to think outside the box of health care administration and therefore decided to pursue a Master’s in Business Administration at the University of St. Gallen to get another perspective on general management.


In an organisation such as cereneo, it is key to understand how everything works. I felt lucky to learn so much and experience different positions over the years. The freedom I was given and my explorative approach at the start of my career supported me to go in the direction I was motivated to go to.’’


Where do you see cereneo go? 


‘’Since cereneo was founded in 2012, a lot has changed. Changes that resulted in the creation of additional organisational structures and company processes, for example. Having incorporated certain values into our lifestyle and brand, we have grown from a more flexible into a more grounded position, dedicating ourselves to bringing more neurorehabilitation, openness and related knowledge to more people. It is our aim to exploit a higher operational synergy, due to a higher number of patients in the future.


What’s interesting is how an originally more flexible company like cereneo develops into an organisation that keeps the dynamic parts on a stable ground while still pursuing further growth – which is the phase we’ve been in for the last few years.


The fast integration of scientific findings into clinical practice in a differentiated way by collaborating in an interdisciplinary team has to be enhanced in the whole field of neurorehabilitation in the future as well.


I love both working closely with people and being challenged to make objective decisions based on facts, and thus advance cereneo as an employer and as a provider of neurorehabilitation.’’


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