Sitting down with Su Chantry, Victoria Stevans learns how occupational health nursing is integral to any workplace
“When my kids first found out that I was a Queen’s Nurse, they thought I was going to be a nurse for the Queen,” says Su Chantry, occupational health nurse, with a smile in her voice. “At least, it shows them that if you try your best, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”
Ms Chantry became a Queen’s Nurse this May and, besides providing her with a warm sense of professional satisfaction, this recognition left an important impression on her children. “Having a daughter particularly, having her see see me be strong, and see me really love what I do, it’s important,” she notes.
As well as becoming a Queen’s Nurse this year she has earned a specialist community public health nursing degree at London South Bank University and started her own business consulting as an autonomous occupational nurse. And, even though Ms Chantry isn’t caring for the Queen, which is a shame, she is becoming comfortable as an occupational nurse and discovering her duty to promote her sector of the profession. Which, one could argue, is equally important.
“When I became a single mum, I felt like my whole world was falling apart and that I was just going to tread water”
Even though Ms Chantry is very content with her current profession, she found occupational nursing out of necessity. “I started as a general nurse,” she explains. “After that I became a midwife, working mainly in critical natal care, and had a family. But then I became a single mum. I couldn’t keep working hospital hours in that situation.”
Needing a more predictable schedule, Ms Chantry began her first role in occupational nursing. “I got a job providing immunisation and fitness reports for nurses. I just needed some stability.”
Now, looking back, Ms Chantry notes that she expected little out of this career shift. “When I became a single mum, I felt like my whole world was falling apart and that I was just going to tread water,” she says. But, just the opposite has been the case. Halfway through our conversation, Ms Chantry stops and tells me, “I’m actually chatting about what I love.”
It’s obvious she isn’t treading water, she’s doing laps.
“You have to be able to speak fluently on all levels”
Currently, Ms Chantry is working for IMASS Group, a company that provides occupational health services for businesses and other organisations for the majority of the week. For the rest of her time she’s working independently.
The constant variability of her career is something Ms Chantry values. With IMASS Group, she cares for atomic energy workers, police officers, cancer nurses, office workers, and manufacturers. “In order to give the best possible care you have to know all the parts of the profession and company, from the executives to the office staff to the lorry drivers,” she explains. “You have to be able to speak fluently on all levels.”
“Nursing’s general knowledge base is integral to what we do”
“Plus, occupational nursing draws on all backgrounds,” she says. “From mental health nursing to acute care. Nursing’s general knowledge base is integral to what we do. That makes me proud.”
Beyond the variety, just being able to keep people well is a reward, Ms Chantry notes. “Workplace health is one that is so critical, especially because most people spend most of their life at work. Good work is beneficial to health. We can help people with that.”
On what it’s like to work independently, Ms Chantry notes, “Working for myself has been a quite exciting journey. Who doesn’t want to be their own boss? I love it.”
Now that she’s become a Queen’s Nurse, Ms Chantry realises with this honour comes with the responsibility to promote occupational nursing. “Occupational health nurses still aren’t recognised for the key roles we play in the community. A certain part of my responsibility now is to get more recognition and respect,” she says. “I’m really proud to be an occupational health nurse and a Queen’s Nurse. I see, even after the first few months, it’s my role to represent occupational health nurses.”