In effort to learn more about the women behind the posters of our Role Model Campaign, in this article, we interview Chantal Schiltmeijer, who is a technical implementation advisor at Nictiz. Read along to discover how Chantal transitioned into a tech career after 21 years of being a nurse.
Chantal was born and raised in Amsterdam. She lives here with her 7-year-old daughter and her partner. Her childhood dream was to become a microbiologist. However, Chantal started working in the healthcare industry when she was just 15 years old. She had dropped out of school and begun her career immediately. She became a registered nurse and continued to advance her knowledge, obtaining 2 speciality degrees in dialysis and neo-natal ICU. In the healthcare industry, she worked across all domains, ranging from nursing homes to academic hospitals. She acquired a substantial amount of practical experience and witnessed first-hand the inefficiencies of her field.
Searching for solutions
Nurses and doctors are bombarded with tonnes of information and measurements of different kinds when dealing with patients every day. When needing to share that information with another department or hospital, details would get lost in translation, ultimately slowing down the patient’s treatment processes. When she saw the healthcare industry switch from paper note-taking to digitised note-taking, it sparked her interest in the IT field. She wanted to determine how to make patient information as accessible and transparent as possible.
A leap of faith
Chantal applied for a master’s in health IT in 2019 and took the leap of faith to combine her two professional interests. She admits that the industry switch was both easy and difficult at the same time. Studying for her master’s and working full time as a nurse was intense at times, admits Chantal. In addition, she wanted to provide use cases to better understand the theoretical content for her studies. But the bureaucracy of big hospitals meant that getting this information took a long time.
After completing her master’s, the next step was finding a job, which was a challenge. If you are in this position Chantal advises you to promote yourself and trust in the value that you add. While she didn’t have any experience working on IT projects, her many years of hands-on experience in the medical field made her a valuable addition to the Nictiz team. She was able to translate her skills to a new application site.
After working in health care for 21 years, Chantal can see the direct effects of her work on people’s lives. Nictiz is the Dutch competence centre for digital information management in health care. Chantal maintains the terminology services provided by Nictiz, and through this, she improves the communication between healthcare professionals.
When asked why she chose Nictiz, Chantal replied “because of the impact they have on healthcare standards. Because of my experiences as a nurse, I realise all too well what impact an imposed workflow can have. By working at Nictiz I can help develop well-applicable solutions from a clinician’s perspective. This way Nictiz allows me to make a positive contribution to national healthcare by reducing the administrative burden.”
Pushing past her comfort zone
After completing roughly 3 years in the industry and 1 year at Nictiz, Chantal can say with confidence that it’s very different from the healthcare industry. While there was a clear hierarchy within the medical field, Nictiz runs a flat organisation where everyone is valued equally. Chantal says that they have an open culture where you are challenged to grow your skills. She recalls a time when she was not comfortable public speaking and would actively avoid it, until her team lead learnt about this and encouraged her to practise. Her supervisor trusted in her capabilities and gave her the confidence she needed to develop this ability. With the right support and trust, she was soon giving keynote talks and lectures at her alma mater, (Hogeschool InHolland). Chantal smiles and tells me that her supervisor saw strengths that she didn’t know she had, and through this, she discovered something that she now enjoys doing.
Outside of the office
Chantal’s goal is to continuously improve communication between different domains within healthcare. One day she is even thinking of starting her own business. In comparison to the rotating shifts she worked as a nurse, Chantal says that she finds the 9-5 life more manageable. In her free time, she likes to go swimming, or explore the city with her camera and a friend. With her daughter, every month they discover a new museum to visit together and spend a day absorbing all the art.
Advice for you
To people who are still building their careers, Chantal has some words of advice for you. She recommends that you seize networking opportunities to find people who are working towards the same goals as you. By promoting yourself and your work, you never know what opportunities will find you. Finally, when in the face of doubt, Chantal tells you to do it anyway! Switching her professional field after 21 years was no easy task, but she told herself that “If I’m going to do this, I have to do this now, otherwise I might never do it.” She took the leap of faith, studied hard and trusted in her skills, and found her place in a field that she truly excels in. Finally, she says, if she could do it, then you can too!
Find out more about the participation of Chantal Schiltmeijer in the Role Model Campaign here.
Want to read more stories? Visit this page for an overview of all our Role Models from the Role Model Campaign 2023.