When I retired from the Armed Forces in December 2012, I decided to go into the fitness industry, an area to which I...
The healthcare sector, public and private, offers a huge range of career opportunities. When the time comes for resettlement, you may well find you already have sought-after skills. But, to really make sure your prospects are in the pink, now’s the time to start getting some appropriate qualifications under your belt.
Healthcare-related work covers a broad spectrum of roles – from administration, logistics and practical back-up support to complex medical care. A total of 1.3 million people make up the NHS workforce. In addition to them, around one-fifth of all health professionals are employed within the private sector, and many more are self-employed in areas such as physiotherapy, podiatry and holistic/complementary therapies. With life expectancies on the rise, employment opportunities within this sector are only likely to increase. Make sure you’ll be at the front of the queue by using the funding available to you while serving to take appropriate courses and qualifications.
Skill up while serving
Many people join the Services to ‘make a difference’ to communities and individuals, and there is a very similar ethos within the healthcare sector. The ability to work calmly and with initiative while under pressure is a core Service skill that is directly and critically applicable to the healthcare sector. Clear and effective communication is an asset that could very well save lives (an experience known to many within the military). Beyond those major attributes are practical Service skills relevant to certain areas of the health sector, such as the ability to drive, operate technical equipment, coordinate people and/or supplies, as well as work with initiative – individually or as part of a team.
The scope for employment within this sector is vast, encompassing work that requires no qualifications (e.g. some administrative positions) to roles that need years of specialist training (e.g. surgeon). Here we’ll focuses on the roles likely to be of greatest interest to those who have been in the Armed Forces, and to which – due to skills and qualifications gained while in uniform, and judicious choice of relevant qualifications to back these up – they are most likely to be suited.
Hospitals in the NHS are managed by trusts (sometimes called acute or foundation trusts) and run by a trust board. Acute hospital trusts provide medical and surgical care, while mental health and ambulance trusts have a similar structure but tend to cover wider areas. Primary care is provided via local GPs, NHS walk-in centres, dentists, pharmacists and opticians. There are also a number of community providers running services such as district nursing and health promotion.
Each trust is responsible for its own recruitment of staff. The vast majority of employers now advertise their job vacancies on NHS Jobs – the online recruitment website for jobs in the NHS. Here you can search and apply online for vacancies that match your preferences. You can also register with the site and be notified by email when matching vacancies arise.
If, in future, you find yourself working in the NHS, you will see that it is committed to offering development and learning opportunities for all full- and part-time staff via its dedicated Career Framework. No matter where you start within the NHS, you will have access to extra training and be given every opportunity to progress within the organisation. You will receive an annual personal development review and development plan to support your career progression and you will be encouraged to extend your range of skills and knowledge, and take on new responsibilities. Many people take on additional responsibility within their own area, while others retrain and move in to different roles.
We will now take a closer look at just a few roles within the NHS you might be considering for your next career, from among the vast range of career opportunities it offers. You will also need to know about the Step into Health scheme (see box), an initiative developed in conjunction with The Royal Foundation and Walking With The Wounded to provide a dedicated pathway for the Armed Forces community to access the numerous career opportunities available in the NHS.
STEP INTO HEALTH
A golden opportunity for Service leavers
The Step into Health programme has been created because the NHS recognises the transferable skills and cultural values that Armed Forces personnel develop when serving, and how they are compatible with those required within NHS roles. It is open to all Service Leavers and Veterans, plus their spouses/partners. It is an incredible opportunity, which sees employers working with the Armed Forces community to provide career and development opportunities within the NHS.
So, whether you are interested in catering, maintenance, administration, finance, communications, management or a role in one of the clinical services – to name but a few of the options – this programme will benefit you. The NHS is keen to invite you to explore your transferable skills, and the potential training and career opportunities available. Contact the NHS organisations in your area to find out how they can support you.
Working within the NHS
If you want to work in an environment that is interesting, rewarding and challenging, a career in nursing could be for you. Nurses form the largest group of staff in the NHS and are a crucial part of the healthcare team. They work in every kind of health setting, from accident and emergency to patients’ homes, with people of all ages and backgrounds. So, if you are caring, compassionate and have a commitment to helping people, you will find a role that suits you. You also need to be able to communicate difficult health issues effectively.
To work as a nurse in the NHS, you must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which means you’ll need a degree in nursing (you can use the ‘course finder’ on the NHS website (see ‘Useful info’) to find out more). There are currently no minimum academic entry requirements for nursing courses, so each higher education institution sets its own criteria. That means you should check before applying to see if your qualifications meet their entry standard. It is also possible to work your way up from a healthcare assistant position and apply for a place on a degree course; however, you will still need to meet the entry requirements. Alternatively, you can apply for a nursing course directly through UCAS. You can also find lots of information on the Nursing Careers website. This offers comprehensive information about the wide range of career options and pathways as well as the variety of entry routes into nursing.
There are many different roles available in nursing and, depending on experience and training, there are plenty of opportunities to rise up through the ranks to manage teams, run wards – and even reach consultant level if desired.
Allied health professions
A career in the allied health professions (AHPs) offers a wide range of opportunities, and combines challenge, an excellent employment package and the rewards of doing something worthwhile. As key members of the healthcare team, those working in the AHPs provide treatment that helps transform people’s lives; this might mean working with other AHPs or other professionals, such as GPs, hospital doctors, teachers or social workers.
Various roles that come under the banner of the AHPs, including: arts therapists; chiropodists/podiatrists; dieticians; occupational therapists; paramedics (see below); physiotherapists; prosthetists; radiographers, and speech and language therapists. Each role has different qualification and skills requirements, but in general allied health professionals need to be practical and have a good academic background, including a science-based qualification. To become a qualified professional you will need to study for a degree, and some careers (such as art therapy) also require postgraduate study. Alternatively, you might be able to join the NHS as a therapy assistant, working alongside qualified staff, where you can also build up qualifications and experience to help you apply for training.
You can find full details of this type of career, and the qualifications you will need, on the NHS website.
The NHS’s wider healthcare team
This offers a unique variety of career options, but every role has one thing in common: it is essential to running the NHS. Members of the wider healthcare team design, construct and maintain NHS buildings, organise catering, supply linen, clean the wards, book appointments … and much more. It consists of people as diverse as painters, caterers, chaplains, secretaries and engineers, who all play a vital part in ensuring that patients receive the best possible care. You may be interested in cutting-edge technology or providing hospitality, or in administration, estates or human resources. You may be looking for a high-flying career, or one that is less demanding but still very rewarding. Whatever your situation and strengths, the wider healthcare team has a role for you.
Other roles with in the NHS
Obviously the NHS is a vast organisation – and that means, as we have already noted, that it offers a similarly vast range of career opportunities – far more than we can cover in-depth here. Some roles and areas in which you may also be interested include: dental team; health informatics (managing communications technology); midwifery; healthcare science (helping to prevent, diagnose and treat illness using technical skills and scientific knowledge); management; operating department practice; pharmacy; psychological therapies (supporting people with a range of mental and physical disabilities); and even studying to become a doctor, or transferring Forces medical skills to such a role.
Don’t forget that, besides the NHS, the UK also has a major network of private hospitals and healthcare-related services, offering similar opportunities to those described above. Although there are still perceptions that it is the more secure option to work for the NHS, this fast-growing sector is already establishing a prominent place in the UK’s health industry and offers health professionals numerous opportunities to develop and progress. The NHS has acknowledged this and more collaboration between the two sectors is now evident.
You can find out about job vacancies and requirements in the independent healthcare sector online, using career search engines (dedicated and general) as well as via the websites of individual providers (such as Bupa, Care UK and AXA).
If you enjoy helping people and want to make a difference to their lives, this job could be for you. As a care assistant (also known as a care worker or support worker), you help people who have difficulties with their daily activities. You might work with children, people with physical or learning disabilities, older people or families, in their own homes, in sheltered housing, at day centres or in places like nursing homes. The exact nature of your duties will vary depending on where you work, but is likely to include:
- helping with daily personal care such as washing, dressing, using the toilet and feeding
- carrying out general tasks such as housework, laundry and shopping
- helping families get used to new caring responsibilities
- working with other health and social care professionals to provide individual care and development plans.
Working hours vary, depending on the job, and might include evenings and weekends. If you work in a residential location, you may be expected to stay overnight on a rota basis. In some jobs, you might live in.
A common way into this career is to do some volunteering work with an organisation that supports vulnerable people. You can also draw on personal experience of caring for someone you know. Although not essential, there are a number of qualifications that you can work towards, whether you are looking to learn more to get into this career or if you have just started in a paid or voluntary position. You can find a full list of qualifications on the Skills for Care website, which also has more information on routes into this career.
Once you start work as a care assistant you will receive on-the-job training from your employer. You may also attend external courses, e.g. on first aid, food hygiene, health and safety, and how to lift and move people safely. You may also be encouraged to work towards further qualifications, such as the level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care, to become a senior care worker (don’t forget that you can use your ELC – see below – to work towards qualifications at level 3 and above for up to five years after you leave the Armed Forces). As your career develops, you can move on to higher-level qualifications and there is funding available in that case too – find full details here. An Access Diploma could also help you to get into a healthcare career, even if you think you don’t have the relevant qualifications.
Emergency care technicians and paramedics
These people are the ‘first on the scene’, generally having driven there by ambulance. They need a level-headed approach and the ability to work quickly under pressure, often in difficult circumstances. These are all skills that translate well from the Armed Forces. Routes into this work can be via:
- one of the NHS Ambulance Service Trusts in the UK
- the Private Ambulance Services (PAS), which compete against the NHS Ambulance Services for contracts and/or work on subcontracts from them.
Most NHS ambulance trusts run their own training courses so, although using your ELC for emergency driving or ambulance technician courses will help if you go on to work for a private company, you will still need to undergo training periods with the NHS.
There are three ‘ranks’ within this area – emergency care assistants (ECAs), ambulance technicians (EMTs) and paramedics – each requiring specific training. ECA training falls within the remit of the various NHS Ambulance Trusts, while paramedic training is currently the preserve of universities. The College of Paramedics’ website has full details.
FutureQuals’ levels 2 and 3 ‘blue light’ driving courses are recognised by all NHS Ambulance Services in the UK. They are listed on the QCF, which means you can use your funding towards them. Developed in partnership with the NHS Ambulance Service Driver Training Advisory Group (DTAG), the qualifications currently available are:
- level 2 Award in Ambulance Driving
- level 3 Award in Patient Care Services: Ambulance Driving
- level 3 Certificate in Emergency Response Ambulance Driving
- level 4 Diploma in Emergency Response Ambulance Driving Instruction.
To find out more, click here.
SAY YES TO 999!
To find out more about working in the UK’s emergency services, take a look at our in-depth article.
Use your ELC
Under the ELC scheme, a wide range of learning can be taken, provided it is offered by an approved provider listed on the ELC website and is at level 3 or above. For full details of how to make the most of your ELC, refer to the in-depth features on this website.