August 27, 2021, by School of Medicine

30 at 30: Chloe McCandlish’s nursing journey

My nursing adventure started over 10 years ago at Nottingham, well actually far away in Hampshire at a college university fair where there was a stand for the university.  

I knew very little about the University of Nottingham but a friend of mine knew she was interested so I went to the stall too. 

Nottingham grabbed my attention straight away by offering an undergraduate Masters in Nursing, allowing me to train as a nurse and also gain the academic qualification of a Masters. During my adolescence, I had watched my mum study and become a nurse, doing additional specialist degree in District Nursing and then trying to juggle academic study of Masters modules and full time work. When I talked to her she encouraged me to apply, not least because the other universities I was looking at were in Scotland and this was much closer at a mere 4 hour drive away. 

Despite growing up with a strong advocate for community and adult nursing I knew mental health was the place for me. I knew that I wanted to understand people; why did some people glide through life, seemingly without a care in the world, and others struggle deeply with getting through the day. An initial attraction to psychology was replaced by nursing due to my certainty of wanting to work directly with people, rather than studying them – which to my 18-year-old mind meant lots of number crunching which I did not enjoy.  

Coming to Nottingham and being based within Queen’s Medical Centre it felt straight away that, as a student nurse, we were part of the healthcare workforce, a community which feels particularly strong in Nottingham thanks, in part, to the reputation of the Nursing and medical school as well as the reputations of the local NHS trusts in which I trained. The variety of placements was outstanding, from inpatient acute psychiatric intensive care units, to working with a school nursing team, to a voluntary organisation which supported those struggling with substance misuse. 

Throughout my training I also fell in love with Nottingham. It is hard to tell how much to attribute to the city, the campus, my course mates turned into best friends, the ethos of the university and the staff who supported me and the huge opportunities I had whilst studying. I knew that even once I graduated Nottingham was the place for me. 

Following graduation, I worked in various local services focusing, initially, on adult mental health and then moving to CAMHS. Working often meant I met other nurses that trained at Nottingham and more and more I noticed this pattern of coming to Nottingham, intending just to study, and then never leaving. These nurses are dotted in services and achieving amazing things, such as becoming Non-Medical Prescribers and Advanced Clinical Practitioners and using their skills to transform healthcare and ensure that Nottingham remains dedicated to improving the health of its local population.  

Due to relationships I had built whilst I was a student I stayed in touch with my lecturers and was told about an opportunity to become a part-time practitioner health lecturer, 

 teaching students whilst also maintaining my clinical practice. I jumped at the opportunity – I knew that I had skills to share and wanted to be part of the special Nottingham journey that I had experienced for someone else. When that role then turned into a full-time role as a teaching associate, I realised I had this real full circle moment of becoming a colleague to people who had taught me. 

The last 18 months of being full-time in my role as teaching associate have been dominated by the need to change and adapt. The pandemic has had a huge impact on our students and has interrupted our usual schedule of learning. I am able to lean on skills I had developed as a student and to think critically about how to teach in these new ways of working. This has led to innovations in delivering content online such as videos, voice recordings and online meetings. I am keen to continue to develop this even when we get back into the classroom and ensure that our teaching is reflective of the changes in clinical practice as there is likely to be a much bigger emphasis on, and experience of, telemedicine being used going forward.  

It also allows me to continue to be compassionate and non-judgmental to support my students, making sure they have the space and capacity to work in a constantly changing clinical practice.  

As a proud citizen and nurse of Nottingham, I have also joined the local bank to help with the huge co-ordinated local vaccination effort. It has been a real pleasure to be back out and about working directly with people. It has allowed me to work with various other Nottingham nurses, as well as some of our students who are also making an incredible contribution to this work. 

Nottingham has absolutely transformed my life, allowing me to join a profession I am so proud of and now allowing me to teach the future workforce and inspire a new generation of mental health nurses. I look forward to seeing what the next 30 years of Nursing at Nottingham brings. 

By Chloe McCandlish, Teaching Associate (Mental Health Nursing)

Posted in 30 Years of NursingAlumni