Gillian McKay, BSN’09

Gillian McKay, BSN’09

Gillian McKay, BSN’09 currently works as an Independent Consultant - Humanitarian Health Advisor in London, U.K. Following her first role as a Registered Nurse at VGH, Gillian’s work has taken her around the world. In this story, Gillian shares how the current Covid-19 pandemic is shaping her career and provides useful advice to the Class of 2020 on how to navigate uncertain times.

Tell us about your role

I am an independent consultant working in the humanitarian health space focused on infectious disease outbreak response. At present, I am advising national non-governmental organisations in six sub-saharan African countries on how to optimize their COVID-19 preparedness and response work. I am also supporting a UK-based group of health workers as they strive to bring principles of humanitarian response into the UK's COVID-19 response activities. I am also completing a Doctorate in Public Health.

What attracted you to this organization?

I enjoy being independent as it allows me to choose the projects I work on and the organisations I work with, with a lot of flexibility to make my own schedule that suits my personal life.

What was your first role after graduation?

I worked at Vancouver General Hospital in the acute medicine unit as a Registered Nurse.

What skill did you learn in your very first job after graduation that you are still using to this day?

How to engage with people across disciplines and ensure that the rights and needs of the patient were the primary focus of all of our combined efforts.

What techniques did you use to address career ambiguity?

I stay very flexible and don't have a set path. I evaluate opportunities as they come up and make decisions based on my personal and professional goals at that time. This has led me down unusual paths, including to South Sudan shortly after independence, to Turkey during the migration crisis, and to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to combat Ebola in a conflict setting.

What have you learned about yourself over the past few months?

That a huge portion of my job can be done remotely! I used to travel four to five months a year, working on projects and going to conferences and meetings. I've learned that much of this can be done online, though, I do look forward to getting back on a plane again!

What is your best career advice?

Get to know people and organisations and stay in touch with them. In my field, it's all about your network, this is how I learn about consultancy and job opportunities.

What advice do you have for the class of 2020?

Enjoy the journey, don't be so set on any one job or location or organisation that you are tunnel-visioned and don't see the other amazing options that will come before you. Sometimes a role that doesn't seem ideal at the start can lead to incredible opportunities down the line.