International Women’s Day 2024 – ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’

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Introducing one of CIPHER’s inspirational women: Chrissie Whitfield

Chrissie WhitfieldRegistered nurse, Chrissie, began working with CIPHER as a bank member of staff five years ago. Proving that she was very much an individual worth investing in, she became a team leader for Clinical Services & Events and was then promoted in July 2023 to Head of Clinical Services, where she remains a valued and efficient manager.

Chrissie was always interested in serving the public, though had very different ambitions when she was at school, aspiring to be a prison officer. Supported by school and her own determination, she achieved good grades, but was too young at the time to train for the prison service. Then, as frequently happens, life had a different path for Chrissie, and she became mum to a daughter at a young age. Feeling she’d lost her opportunity for her original career path, Chrissie decided that she still had a lot to give and, determined to work in a public-facing and supportive role, attended college to complete a demanding Access to Higher Education course. Originally applying for Midwifery, she eventually was offered and accepted a place on the Adult Nursing course, intending to apply later for a midwifery short course after qualifying. However, this wasn’t to be as she soon realised she had found her vocation! Chrissie found that she not only had a natural aptitude for nursing, but she loved it and no longer wished to train as a midwife.

Chrissie WhitfieldHer training wasn’t all plain sailing, but she proved just what a determined and focused student and nurse she could be; juggling two young children and running a home, university work and placements was not easy! In fact, as so often can be the case as women attempt to study and qualify as well as raising children, Chrissie seriously considered leaving the programme in her third year. Thanks to a stubborn personal tutor who believed in Chrissie – and her own determination – she decided to stick with it, despite the challenges. And we’re thankful that she did!

After qualifying, Chrissie began her nursing career in Acute Medicine, enjoying her work and continuing to learn and upskill in an Acute Assessment Unit for five years. Following this, and looking to acquire skills in a different area of nursing, Chrissie made the move to Accident and Emergency, developing emergency clinical skills and thriving in the fast-paced environment, with no two shifts being the same and a range of challenges to negotiate, as anyone in emergency medicine will testify!

Chrissie WhitfieldWith her accustomed need to develop her training and skills further and try new challenges and environments, Chrissie, after five years in A&E, moved to another high-pressured work setting – anaesthetics – working in the busy and focused setting of the operating theatre, supporting and monitoring patients in surgery, gaining a great deal of further critical care experience.

As with so many health care practitioners, the COVID 19 pandemic saw Chrissie redeployed so that her skills could be utilised where most needed, in her case working for two years in ITU. It was following this redeployment that Chrissie took a completely different step and returned, in a way, to her first ambition: that of working in a prison.

The work of a prison nurse certainly threw up some new challenges! Used to working in busy and high-pressured environments, Chrissie was now challenged with working in a frequently hostile setting that demanded a completely different skill set to the one she developed in hospital. She thoroughly enjoyed the role, and it was one in which it was necessary for her to remain a caring, respectful and non-judgemental professional – values that are very much required and promoted by CIPHER Medical. And it was during this time that Chrissie became a welcome member of #TeamCIPHER, bringing these shared values and ethos to her bank work with us in our Events team.

Chrissie WhitfieldIn her current leadership role, Chrissie has put her varied training and skills to good use, though she states that, ‘the decisions I make not only impact me but the team of people I have working with me, which at times leaves me doubting myself.’ However, Chrissie’s expertise and leadership style, coupled with her careful thought about impact, are what make her a good leader. She is incredibly proud of her achievements at CIPHER, and most proud of the role she occupies now: ‘Never in my wildest dreams did I visualise myself in a leadership role! Taking on a leadership role massively pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I am proud of how I have handled it so far.’ Her current professional ambition is ‘to be a great leader!’ She thoroughly appreciates the opportunities provided by CIPHER and the investment made in her to develop further. She particularly valued attending courses such as MIMMS that allowed her to work as Match Commander at MFC. However, Chrissie’s naturally caring nature shows through again when she states that, ‘one of the greatest opportunities I have had is training to become a TRiM practitioner. Staff welfare is my main priority and having these additional skills [learned from the course] allows me to deliver support to the team when needed.’ Which is typical of Chrissie, who always has the welfare of others in her view. In fact, when asked what it is that motivates her, she replied, ‘having the opportunity to work alongside and lead an amazing bunch of people.’

International Women's DayWhen asked which women have inspired Chrissie, without hesitation she names British polar explorer Anne Daniels. A mother of four, Daniels was, along with expedition teammate Caroline Hamilton, the first woman in history to reach the North and South Poles as part of all-women teams and has led three Arctic Survey expeditions. Chrissie says of her, ‘she is an exceptional leader and is incredibly resilient; even in really tough situations she maintains a positive attitude. She has led many expeditions in some tough conditions using teamwork. This type of leader is one I inspire to be.’ Closer to home, Chrissie is inspired by her former Acute Assessment Unit manager, Hilary, who, Chrissie recalls, is ‘an amazing woman who leads by example’ – much the same as Chrissie, we would say – ‘she would always support her team… Nothing was a trouble to Hilary, and her office door was always open. She navigated me through some tough times and taught me so much about nursing that I have utilised in my career.’ We can clearly see the professional and leadership examples that Chrissie has taken during her career in her own work and now she in turn can be considered an inspiration to others.

When Chrissie has some down-time, unsurprisingly, she still likes to challenge herself. An enthusiast of DIY, she and her family are in the process of renovating their house ‘a little bit at a time’. When she really wants to relax, she bakes and she reads, which is relevant as she describes herself as ‘very much like an open book’ – with Chrissie, what you see is what you get, and what we get is very much a diligent, determined and inspirational woman!

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