An Interview with Kate Montague-Hellen

Kate Montague-HellenCurrent Job: Research Nurse

Scientific Discipline/Field: Clinical Haemato-Oncology

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): P (Pansexual), B

What does you job involve?

Recruiting and supporting oncology patients on clinical trails within the NHS.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

Initially I read for a BSc in Biology at the University of Sussex and at the end of it I came to a cross roads. I loved the Ecology and Evolution aspects of Biology so started an MSc in Human Behavioural Ecology at Manchester Metropolitan University.

At that time the recession hit and it appeared that I would need to move into a more practical field if I ever wanted to get a good job after my course. I decided to end the MSc at PGCert level and move into Nursing, which had always been in the back of my mind as a career.

I read PGDip Nursing (Adult Branch) at Sheffield Hallam University and became a Registered Adult Nurse (RNA). I took a job as a Staff Nurse in Spinal Rehabilitation which I loved. I worked at the unit for two years but missed Research. Other than ‘topping up’ my PGDip to MSc, and a bit of patient teaching, I hadn’t really used my academic skills for 4years. I missed it. A lot.

I have recently took up a post at the University of Sheffield’s Clinical Oncology Department as a Research Nurse in Haematology and I love it.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Being LGBT+ hasn’t really had too much of a conscious effect on my life at all, and particularly not in terms of my career. The biggest affect any one thing has had on my life is meeting my wife, Beth. If I hadn’t joined her in Manchester after we left the University of Sussex, I would probably still be down in Brighton. But there are no regrets. Ever.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

My only jobs, post graduation, have been in Nursing, including placements as a Nursing Student. On placements, I did initially have concerns about outing myself before testing the water. My confidence was boosted when I met my best friend on my first placement. She was a newly qualified nurse and we supported each other on the ward. Smoothly, in conversation, she just mentioned that she had a girlfriend. Admittedly, I was surprised. I don’t know why, but I guess that stereotypes are powerful, and we are all surprised when people don’t necessarily fit into the idea we have of them.

Since that placement, I found it easier to come out each time, especially when I got one of the good mentors who were genuinely interesting in me as a person and not just their ‘student’. Some wards I never came out to in the months that I was there. These wards, and one in particular, I would not wish to ever return to. Interestingly, this was not necessarily about me being LGBT+, it was that I did not feel respected as a person, regardless of who I was in a relationship with.

When starting a new job, I throw it out there instantly. I think I even mentioned being LGBT+ in my interview for this job!

I don’t think coming out has had any detrimental effects on my career thus far, nor has it had any positive effects. My new team have shown the best possible response- they genuinely didn’t batter an eyelid. Just picked up the female pronoun for my partner and ran with it.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?

I don’t think I had any role models growing up. As a child I tended to look up to powerful women – it’s not surprising as I was raised in a very political family of Trotskyite Feminists! I think I still look up to powerful people of all genders. After all, my wife was the President of the LGBT Liberation Group at the University of Sussex when I met her!

In terms of my career, each choice I have made has been on instinct (and a lot of thought) so role models were very transient.

What are your plans for the future?

I intend to develop my career as a Research Nurse for the moment and finish my MSc. The rest will fall into place when it’s ready.

Anything else you’d like to add?

As a great man once said:

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”