The work that the NHS have done to keep the country afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of incredible. And although it can undoubtedly be difficult, saving lives as part of your 9-5 has got to be pretty rewarding.
So if you're one of many people who took part in #ClapForCarers but found yourself wondering if you could be one of the NHS's 1.3 million workers yourself one day, the answer is: yes. In fact, the NHS saw a spike in job applications back in April as the pandemic escalated in the UK, with some even joining the NHS after losing their own jobs.
If the past year has left you inspired to join the NHS, you might be wondering where to start. So we asked Prerana Issar, the NHS's Chief People Officer, who spoke at our inaugural Cosmopolitan Careers Festival last year, to give us the inside track on what working for the NHS is like, and how best to wangle yourself a job inside the country's most-loved organisation.
Why work for the NHS?
Working to keep the nation healthy is an exciting and challenging career path to take, and the NHS is full of passionate people. "No matter who you are, the NHS and the people delivering it will have an impact on your life in some way," says Prerana. "Whatever area of the NHS you join, you will become part of a talented team of people committed to providing world-class care and treatment to patients."
How many people work for the NHS?
The NHS is the biggest employer in the UK and Europe, and the fifth biggest employer in the world. As of July 2020, there are currently around 1.3 million people working in the NHS in England. "That's around one in every forty people, so you probably know at least one person who works for the NHS," adds Prerana. "Amongst these, there are around 150,000 doctors and over 330,000 nurses and midwives."
What kind of applicants is the NHS looking for?
One of the biggest myths about working in the NHS is that you have to have medical qualifications. "You don’t have to have clinical skills to work for us!" emphasises Prerana. "We have than 350 different careers on offer, so there is a job for you, no matter what your interests, skills or qualifications are. It doesn't matter whether you’re still in education, thinking about switching your career or already working in health, we encourage anyone, whoever they are, to apply for a role within the NHS. Optimism and conviction are two essential qualities for an applicant to display," she adds.
Do you need a degree to work in the NHS?
The short answer is no. "There are so many careers available in the NHS, including lots of opportunities for staff without these qualifications, especially in wider healthcare team roles such as being a healthcare support worker," says Prerana. "To give you an idea, only about 50% of the NHS workforce have a university or other professional qualification, but there are lots of pathways into an NHS career."
Can I work for the NHS without a medical qualification?
"Yes, there are plenty of different NHS roles that you can work in that do not require a medical qualification, such as a healthcare support worker, I.T. specialist or administrator," says Prerana. Lots of people don't realise this, but you can also gain qualifications by studying and working within these roles at the same time. "We have a colleague working in the NHS who currently doesn’t have any medical qualifications and has joined us as a healthcare support worker," says Prerana. "However, she has started training in a nursing associate role, which means that she can work and study for her nursing degree at the same time. "
Can I switch careers into the NHS?
Yes, you can join the NHS at any point in life and in your career. "We’re always looking for new and passionate staff from every walk of life to join the team," says Prerana. "Many of the NHS's 350 different roles actually benefit from previous experience elsewhere, in office-based areas such as administration, accountancy or management, but also in more practical jobs, such as catering, gardening or plumbing." So get thinking about how your current skills might be transferable to an NHS role. You can find out more about how your skills might transfer to the NHS at the careers page.
Can I volunteer for the NHS?
Volunteering before applying to a role can be a great option, says Prerana, as it can give you an insight into the different roles and teams that operate in the NHS. "There are volunteer centres across the country, and many NHS trusts have volunteer managers you can contact if you want to find out about opportunities in your area. There are over 300 types of volunteer roles."
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