Megan Chambers is a Contraception and Sexual Health Nurse for Brook in Cornwall. She shares her journey of having various health and social care jobs before deciding to work in sexual health.
Back in school, I was never sure what I wanted to do, I’d always been the “mother” of the friendship group, caring and sensible. I had chosen A-levels that interested me; Human biology, Psychology, Chemistry, and Health and Social Care. In the first year at College my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Subsequently, my concentration levels at college plummeted, as did my results. I failed Chemistry and in second year took up Home Economics for an easy lesson to fill the gap.
Due to my mum taking ill, I decided I would like to go to university to become a nurse after being in hospital so often with her. I had my poor dad driving from Middlesex to Oxford to Bournemouth to Cardiff for university interviews and maths tests. I got conditional offers at them all and got the grades I needed (BCC) but after college I had well and truly had enough of education and decided to take a year out. I took a job as a community carer for a year to get some experience in care.
I enjoyed driving around the county to look after those who needed care in their own homes.
In 2013, I got accepted into Plymouth University at their Truro campus, which is local to me. This meant that I did not have to be far away from my family and could continue working. I decided to quit community care a few months into my degree, as it was hard to juggle to hours with uni work and placements. A friend offered me a job with her supporting a young man with cerebral palsy. It was great, we got to take him to concerts and trips out, just like any other young man would be doing. I mainly worked weekends and when I did sleep-ins I could work on assignments.
I had a variety of placements from surgery to district nursing to a neurological rehabilitation ward, a gynae/medical ward (where I was offered my first job), and finally a three-month stint on a coronary care unit. Whilst on the gynae ward I spent an afternoon at the nearest Brook centre to see what they did, and it definitely sparked an interest. I absolutely loved being out in the community doing district nursing and getting out in the fresh air rather than the stuffy wards.
However, I knew that I needed some general experience first before I decided on what to do.
I took the job on the gynae ward, and I was extremely nervous as it bought back many memories of when my mum was a patient on that same ward, but I got on very well with all the staff and enjoyed the nature of the work. We cared for female only patients mostly from post-gynae surgery but, as with any ward, many of our patients were elderly patients all waiting for care packages to be arranged. We would also often care for people who were miscarrying or having an ectopic pregnancy, which I found particularly upsetting.
A year in and the mixture of 12 hour day and night shifts in the same week were taking their toll, I’m definitely a person that doesn’t deal well with lack of sleep and likes routine. I spoke with the Matron and expressed an interest in working in the sexual health unit if any positions came up. She came back to me shortly after and said that there was a position available soon due to someone going on maternity leave. I couldn’t really afford to risk taking a short term post but I found the area so interesting that I thought it was definitely worth applying for. Not long after I had a phone call offering me the job. I started 1 month later.
I absolutely love all that the job entails; seeing young teenagers right through to those in their 80s+.
A lot of the training has been done on the job, like taking bloods and learning all the different STIs, how to diagnose them and their treatments. We use microscopes to pre-diagnose some STIs too like Gonorrhoea or Trichomonas. I went to London to do a course on STIs and cervical smear-taker training. In June 2019 I went on maternity leave for a year and during that time, our NHS contract got taken over by Brook. I returned to work at the very start of the pandemic. It was completely different to me to start back at work for a new company, at home, after a year off, but now 9 months down the line I’m back into the swing of it and really enjoying being back in clinic seeing patients face to face. And, in the new year I start my contraception training which I’m really looking forward to!