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'I took a non-clinical elective placement at the DH'

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I have just finished a six week placement in the nursing division in the public health directorate of the department of health. Sounds impressive doesn’t it, but all I had to do to get there was ask.

I’ve signed up to be a caremaker which has opened up so many opportunities for me. This and being active on twitter (@McCandlish), within the online nursing community, led to me meeting Viv Bennett at the 2012 CNO Conference. I asked if I could spend time with her and the nursing team in the Department of Health for my elective placement; a unique opportunity to arrange a specialist placement by ourselves looking at any nursing role we are interested in.

It took alot of courage and I was a little astounded that she said yes, but everyone I have met over the placement has been so welcoming and even genuinely interested in my views and what I can teach them as well as what they can teach me.

I was interested in doing something non-clinical for my elective as I felt our course covered clinical settings and I have an interest in professional development and policy making.

We had sessions in uni about how policy is made and how nurses fit in  yet I wanted to find out more about it how nurses work in this area, and this seemed like a perfect way to do so. It was interesting to find out how many nurses were tucked within DH, and how greatly they contributed to work and driving projects forward, often then not being associated with those projects, which takes a strong desire to make changes without desiring credit.

I have been working primarily with Ben Thomas who is the professional advisor for mental health and learning disability nursing. We have been working on applying the 6Cs to mental health and learning disabilities nursing specifically.

As part of the consultation process people commented on a first draft at CNO conference 2012 and I have been taking these comments and helping to put the final changes to these ‘strategy on a page’ visuals.

I was lucky enough to attend meetings with a variety of people - directors of nursing, ministers, CQC, RCN, commissioners and many more.

I spent a day at the RCN HQ in London with Ian Hulatt, the mental health lead. This was something I never expected, and just goes to show what can happen when you ask to shadow people.It showed me a bit more about how the RCN supports its members and the projects going on.

And I gained some incredibly valuable alternative perspectives by discussing my dissertation topic, on the future of mental health nursing, with a wide variety of people.

I was so impressed at how passionate and driven the nurses I met are about their areas of practice, I only spent short amounts of time with some of the professional leads but their knowledge and passion speaks volumes and gives me confidence that they are fighting for patient care at the heart of everything.

It has definitely made me think about my future career options, as policy is an interesting world to be a part of. It has also made me realise that nurses wherever they may be will welcome you if you share an interest with them.

If there is someone you want to shadow, go for it, just ask. And get on twitter.


Chloe McCandlish is a third year student mental health nurse at the University of Nottingham


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