Nursing Times blogger Elena Kinchington explains how a surprise diagnosis forced her to look at her own professional identity and make changes to her career.
Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity of working intermittently in a non-clinical position. Having only ever worked clinically this was not an obvious career aspiration; rather the choice was made for me when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
This was not the path I planned. In this time I’ve had to change the way I viewed my professional identity as a nurse, and my ideas about career development. I found myself repeatedly anxious about my future within nursing and asking ‘If I can’t practice clinically how can I progress in my career?’
I cannot image I am alone in this worry, others must have felt the uncertainty, not just someone like me with a chronic condition, but also for anyone who has had to take a career break for whatever reason. The terms of the Disability Discrimination Act presses upon the employer the need to make a ‘reasonable adjustment’, which is how I found my self building up my confidence and self-esteem in the office.
I’m lucky that this flexibility in the system has worked well for me, and has allowed me to pursue the research and audit aspect that underpins our practice. This new understanding of the job we do has diverged in to new and interesting areas that I never once gave myself the opportunity to consider this early on in my career, so narrowed was my focus. I have a greater understanding of the complexity of practice and people involved that contribute to the nursing of a child.
The way we care for our patients is dependent on individuals who have spent time over the years researching best practice. I for one now have a renewed desire to work amongst these people at the forefront of this type of medicine. It goes without saying that a main part of this is directly related to the support I’ve received both from my colleagues and the system they represent. It has without a doubt strengthened my resolve in continuing my professional practice at whatever level I can achieve, and help me reflect on the skill and knowledge I already have in place. This is a continuing journey that, although difficult and has often made me feel resentful at times, has never been one where I felt isolated. I think that this is something very special about the place we work and its support structure. I hope others feel as I do that we have a culture of collegiality within our workplace that enables colleagues with chronic conditions or personal problems to contribute positively in their job and to feel that they can speak openly about themselves and their experiences without being pitied or victimised.
About the author
Elena Kinchington is a Staff Nurse working in a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit in London