Finding her niche

As part of Calvary Mater Newcastle’s celebration of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we play Hard Quiz with Sandra McKendry, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Surgery, Melanoma Unit.

What does it mean to be a Clinical Nurse Consultant?
A Clinical Nurse Consultant (CNC) is an advanced practice registered nurse who has gained specialist qualifications after many years of study. A CNC has extensive experience and knowledge in the areas of leadership, education and research. I am very passionate about my role in providing high standards of care and advocating in the best interests of all patients.

What do you like most about nursing?
Nursing as a career has offered me flexibility and many opportunities to try different specialities in many areas. It has been both a challenging and interesting career, but most of all I have been able to make a difference in many people’s lives.

What studies have you undertaken to increase your skills?
After I graduated from university with a Diploma in Nursing, my postgraduate year was at the Royal Newcastle Hospital. After my new grad year I found myself in elective orthopaedics and went on to work in theatres. I then completed my Bachelor of Nursing degree whilst working full time.

After leaving the Royal I took a position in orthopaedics at the John Hunter Hospital and completed a postgraduate certificate in orthopaedics, then became a clinical nurse specialist in the Orthopaedic Unit there.

I spent some time in community nursing and the private sector after my first child. During this time I helped set up Post-Acute Community Care (PACC). The focus was on early discharge of orthopaedic patients from hospital out into the community with support from nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. It is now known as CAPAC.

I transferred to the special surgery ward at John Hunter Hospital specialising in facio-maxillary, ear nose and throat, and burns. During this time I was appointed Acting Nurse Unit Manager but missed the hands-on contact with patients and soon realised that this wasn’t my niche .

Still needing a challenge, I qualified in training and assessment and became a clinical nurse specialist and case co-ordinator, still in the special surgery ward. I had found my specialty and I loved it.

After a while I felt I could do more and in 2014 became a Clinical Nurse Educator at Calvary Mater Newcastle. I continued to study and finished my Masters in Nursing: Advance Practice in 2018. I am now the Clinical Nurse Consultant in Surgery located in the Melanoma Unit.

I have now found my next niche and love my job.

What advice would you give to new nurses?
There are so many avenues and different types of nursing available and opportunities are endless if you are willing to work and study hard. I can only encourage nurses to keep pushing themselves and challenging their abilities to move forward in their careers.