Working in the NHS = doctors and nurses, right?

If you based your knowledge of the NHS purely on what’s portrayed in TV medical dramas, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all NHS staff work in hospitals or that we only employ doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics and porters! In fact, there are more than 350 different careers in health, many with patient contact and others working behind the scenes.

As well as hospitals, you’ll find them working in community-based mental health settings, schools, clinics, prisons, GP surgeries, treatment centres, public health organisations, pharmacies, NHS Blood and Transplant, ambulance services, the NHS 111 telephone advice service and many others.

Some NHS services are also provided by social enterprises, community interest companies and charities.

Largest employer, many organisations

As the largest employer in the UK, you’d expect the National Health Service to have a high profile when it comes to careers-related activity. However, what makes life challenging is that more than 1,000 organisations deliver NHS healthcare in England alone and each is an employer in its own right. This means that each is responsible for its own recruitment and policies around apprenticeships, work experience, mentoring, schools’ liaison, providing speakers and exhibitors for local events etc.

As a consequence, you may find that your local healthcare organisations are resourced differently when it comes to the careers support they can offer you.

How Health Careers can help

Health Careers (part of NHS Health Education England) is the careers information service about careers in the health sector in England. We play a key role in supporting local activity through a wide range of resources.

Resources for schools

You may know us for our range of careers publications https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/career-planning/career-advisers-and-teachers/teaching-resources/health-careers-literature which are free to organisations, but we have many other resources to help you, and there are clear linkages between our resources and many of the Gatsby benchmarks.

Gatsby benchmarks and resources from Health Careers

Helping you meet the Gatsby benchmarks

Your life, real life https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/career-planning/career-advisers-and-teachers/teaching-resources/real-life-your-life-teaching-resources is an online suite of resources, activities and supporting materials for key stage 4 learners. They can be delivered as part of work in citizenship, PSHE, English and drama. This suite, along with our Patient journeys https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/career-planning/career-advisers-and-teachers/teaching-resources/patient-journey-toolkit-teachers (which show which staff a patient will typically come into contact with during their ‘journey’) can help support you in Benchmark 1 (a stable careers programme).

Our Infographics https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/career-planning/resources contain bite size information with facts and figures covering a range of topics (such as apprenticeships in the NHS) and career areas (eg learning disability nursing, careers in the psychological therapies, podiatry, careers in healthcare science). Meanwhile on the Health Careers website https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles, you can find labour market information about individual clinical roles. This can help you meet Benchmark 2 (learning from career and labour market information).

Benchmark 3 relates to addressing the needs of each student and the Career mapper https://www.stepintothenhs.nhs.uk/take-the-test on our Step into the NHS website https://www.stepintothenhs.nhs.uk/ (aimed specifically at 14-19 year olds) can help individual students generate career suggestions for them to consider, based on their answers to 30 questions.

For a more comprehensive quiz, why not try our new Find your health career https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/career-planning/career-tools tool on the main Health Careers website with more than 100 questions? Your students and clients can save their results to a Health Careers account.

On our Health Careers website, you can compare up to three roles side-by-side using our Compare roles https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/compare-roles tool – especially useful if, for example, you’re unclear what the differences are between a psychotherapist, a psychiatrist and a psychologist!

You can search for approved clinical courses that lead to professional registration using our course finder https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/career-planning/course-finder.

When it comes to Benchmark 5 (encounters with employers and employees), there is a plethora of resources on offer.

Many staff in the health sector volunteer to provide support in primary and secondary schools through Inspiring the future https://www.inspiringthefuture.org/. This might include help with mock interviews, talks about their role, mentoring, subject talks, CV workshops or speed networking, for example. You’ll also find a number of health sector scientists and engineers are STEM ambassadors https://www.stem.org.uk/stem-ambassadors, providing a real insight to what they do on a day to day basis.

Our annual schools competition https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/career-planning/career-advisers-and-teachers/teaching-resources/step-nhs-secondary-schools for students in Years 8 and 9 is now in its 10th year and is a great opportunity for students to research any one career in the health sector and then create an advert to promote that career to their peers.

In 2018, we also launched our resources for primary school students https://www.stepintothenhs.nhs.uk/primary, after a successful pilot phase back in January.

You’ll always find us at the Big Bang Science Fair https://www.thebigbangfair.co.uk/, World Skills UK https://www.worldskillsuk.org/ and What Career Live https://www.whatcareerlive.co.uk/ events, supported by local health sector staff who share their passion for what they do and engage with students through practical learning activities.

Our toolkit for work experience coordinators, Finding work experience in the NHS https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/career-planning/career-advisers-and-teachers/work-experience-toolkit gives practical hints and tips about how to approach NHS organisations for work experience placements for their students. This is especially relevant to Benchmark 6 (experiences of workplaces).

Supporting careers leaders

Since 2011, we’ve been exhibiting and presenting at the annual National Career Guidance Shows https://prospectsevents.co.uk/ and are looking forward to meeting newly appointed and experienced careers professionals in March 2019.

Update is our termly newsletter aimed primarily at this audience, providing the very latest news and information affecting careers in the health sector. We also send occasional emails to careers advisers and teachers (who are registered with us) in between Update editions, if there’s something we really feel will be of interest to them.

Want to know more?

Get in touch – you might be surprised by what you find out about careers in the health sector!

About The Author

Alan Simmons is the careers specialist at Health Careers. He has been a careers adviser for more than 35 years, working with people of all ages and backgrounds and stakeholders across the education and public sectors. Follow him on Twitter @Alan_Simmons or connect with him on LinkedIn.