Experiencing the NHS

Posted by: Natalie Fisk - Posted on:

What is an NHS manager? A few months before applying to the scheme I had no idea. However, by the end of the application process, I not only knew what it entailed but had also decided it was the career path for me. I was fortunate enough to take a gap year after uni which gave me time to explore the question above and experience the NHS first hand. I wanted to write a blog to share the things I did for those who are similarly keen to experience the NHS and have time to do so.

None of my suggestions are requirements for applying; people’s experience pre-scheme ranges from personal experience as a patient through to full time staff. It’s your passion and enthusiasm that will be your greatest asset in the process!

  1. Get online. Some brilliant blogs have been written about using twitter (@natfisk to follow my journey) and other useful websites like The King’s Fund for information. The King’s Fund also have a new podcast series which I found easier to digest. Keep an eye on what the scheme shares on Twitter/ Facebook too as they are often useful articles and videos. I signed up to the free e-mails from HSJ and nhsManagers.net that give updates and opinions on major changes, although you can’t read all the articles without paying. There is a huge amount of information out there and it can be overwhelming; only look at themes that interest you and don’t feel any pressure to memorise things!
  1. Volunteer. If you have time, it’s worth looking on the website of your local trust(s) to see if they have any volunteering opportunities. These range from giving directions to running the radio station. I became a volunteer in a Maternity Unit, where I worked alongside Health Care Assistants to answer call bells, stock up cupboards and help with anything that needed doing. This is a brilliant way to get a sense of what is it like to work in the NHS; you begin to see the pressures and challenges for staff and get a feel for life as a patient too.

    A lot can be gained from experiences outside the NHS as well. For me, I saw what it was for a team to live and breath it’s values through the work I did with AgeUK. I spent some time helping with event organisation, and also in their dementia day centre. Organisations like Healthwatch frequently welcome volunteers too.
  1. Public meetings. Lots of hospitals hold board meetings which the public can attend. Here they discuss current issues and may be have presentations on themes such as equality and diversity. Often these meetings can be found on trust websites and you might have to e-mail in advance to say you want to go. Again don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to hospitals. I went along to health meetings at the Council, watched a NICE board meeting (they travel round the country) and also attended Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) meetings. If you explain why you are there you might be surprised at how willing people are to give their time to you and to introduce you to others. With the help of people I met through meetings I was able to set up a voluntary placement with commissioners at my local council and spend some time with former and current trainees. 

    Two tips for these meetings: firstly, be prepared to be the only member of the public there and secondly, be prepared for lots of acronyms. A sneaky google might be needed to keep up…

The things I did were far less about improving my application (in fact, none of it was on my form!) and much more about finding out if I was the right fit for the NHS and if the NHS was the right fit for me. However, it did give me a way to evidence my passion and having a base of knowledge to work from has helped me a lot in the first few weeks on the scheme. I recognise that I was really lucky to meet so many supportive and inspiring people on my journey but you never know what might happen until you go out and give things a go.

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