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Case Study - Aisling McLaughlin

BA in Adult Health Nursing

Deputy Director for Nursing, NHS England, West Midlands

Aisling Crombie (ex McLaughlin) studied Adult Health Nursing at Coventry University 12 years ago. Today, because of her passion and ambition to make a difference in people’s lives, she is now Deputy Director for Nursing, NHS England in the West Midlands. She tells us about her incredible career journey as a nurse over the last decade.

Nursing is one of the most privileged careers you can ever possibly have.


I first became interested in nursing when my grandmother came to live with us when I was 13 years old. She had just been diagnosed with cancer. My mum cared for my grandmother alongside of a team of community nurses ensuring she was kept comfortable and pain free, always retaining her dignity and treating her with compassion. At such a young age I just knew that I wanted to be a nurse.

My nursing career has been such a roll coaster. I’ve witnessed the horrific and life changing injuries that our troops suffered from Afghanistan as a critical care nurse; to experiencing the sheer joy of being short listed for the Nursing times Awards; and jumping out of a helicopter whilst working at Baltimore Shock Trauma Unit in America. I don’t think it is possible to leave another job more tired and emotionally exhausted. Many times I went home and had a good cry believing I was out of my depth. However, the next day I would put my nurses uniform back on, walk back onto the ward with the same hardworking, incredible team and realise that I was still doing the best job in the world.

University placements inspired and instilled a lot of values in me that I’ve never forgotten.

My mentors whilst at Coventry made time for me, supported me and guided me. They helped open up many opportunities, which made my university life and student nursing experience fantastic. When I arrived from Northern Ireland I had never even used traffic lights or been on a train so I must have been a very strange and naïve student! Most recently I attended the George Eliot Hospital as part of a clinical visit. Whilst walking into the Emergency Department I was introduced as the Deputy Director of Nursing for NHS England to the nurse in charge who I recognised immediately to be my mentor from my 3rd year. She was very emotional when I highlighted to her team that she was a huge inspiration to me as a student. Those individuals we meet along our nursing journey will always stay with us.

It has been an emotional journey since leaving Coventry University, it’s not the type of career where you go in and just earn your wage.

In 2012 after a career in Critical Care, I landed my dream job as Lead Nurse for research at the specialist Surgical Reconstruction Microbiology Centre at University Hospital Birmingham. The role involved looking at lessons learnt from trauma and translating that into civilian practice. That’s when I started my career in working with soldiers returning from the Afghanistan War, civilians involved in major trauma and delivering research to the front line. After this, we were able to set up the first 24/7 trauma nurse-led research centre in 2013 – a practice that has now been rolled out across the UK.

As the lead nurse, I lived and breathed my job – I thought nothing of working all day and coming in during the night to attend trauma calls. By 2014, I was managing a large and busy Emergency Care, Trauma, Anaesthetics and Critical Care research team, which quickly became one of the world’s leading centres for trauma research, delivering 24/7 research.

By 2016, I needed to understand the NHS as an organisation and I wanted to make a difference on a much larger scale.

Nowadays, my job is to support the Director of Nursing for NHS England provide leadership for the various national work streams relating to safe patient care, positive experiences of patients and safeguarding. The role is very different from my clinical roles but extremely busy and fast paced.

 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2023