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From the Armed Forces to the NHS

A photo of Ally Middleton

''I served in the PMRAFNS (Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service) for over 12 years.  I left as a Senior Non Commissioned Officer to seek a career in the NHS as both my partner and I were serving in the Royal Air Force and the work-life balance was challenging.  Whilst in the RAF I worked in the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, based in QE Hospital Birmingham, looking after predominantly repatriated soldiers from conflicts, or other trauma patients from the rest of the world. 

 I then spent a few years working in Cyprus in the military hospital, looking after service personnel and their families which brought a different challenge of children, young people and family care.  Following that I spent much time working with the Army in various training centres, supporting frontline medics and new recruits.  My final posting was working in BCU training the future military nurses.  I deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq on a number of occasions, working in austere conditions and had done areomed roles taking me as far away as the Falkland islands.  When I moved over to the NHS I was keen to experience a different challenge and influence change in education in our local systems.

Nursing is nursing, it’s a compassionate, evidence-based, and varied career, wherever you work. The pandemic showed the real similarities - the early days of the pandemic reminded me of my overseas deployments – although not as hot and sweaty.  I’ve had the ability to work alongside NHS and civilian colleagues for most of my military career, so the transition was quite easy – and I’ve been lucky to be welcomed by all the teams and people I’ve worked with in Worcestershire.   

I still feel very in-touch with the RAF – my husband is still serving, and some of my closest friends are those I’ve met in the military.  I like to think I have the best of both worlds, the social life and friendships of the military, and work challenges of the NHS without having to crawl around a muddy field on training a couple of time a year!

 I joined the Armed Forces Network, right at the start, and apart from anything else its great to know that there are people out there who understand what military life is like.  I’m a veteran, but I’m also now a spouse of the military lifestyle, and understand what that can be like, from being left at home when there are short notice deployments and exercises, moving house every 2 years, or dealing with repercussions of partners who have been overseas, involved with traumatic situations for instance.  The network offers not only somewhere to chat but also real-time support for those who are part of the wider Armed Forces community who may need short or long term support in the workplace to cope with the unusual challenges that may occur.''

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Joining the Trust as an International Nurse

Nurse at an airport leaving moving to the UK

''Hello, my name is Baby Gleetar I am an International Nurse from Kerala, India. I made my move some years ago back in 2004, and I am now a proud citizen of the United Kingdom.

One of the reasons I chose to move was to start a new life. The process took a lot of thought and planning. I was looking for career development and better life standards not only for me but also for my family. 

I have friends work all over the world, some had moved to UK from other countries and after much consideration and thinking, the UK my choice to emigrate to. 

Prior to moving, I had gained my Nursing and Midwifery qualification from Kerala. The qualification was an advanced diploma which was 3–4-year programme including an internship.

When I applied for the job here, I had already applied to NMC (previously named UKCC). I applied through an agency which had advertised in a local newspaper. After a lot of perseverance and waiting, I boarded my flight to the UK in June 2004. 

These days the visa process and travel process area a lot quicker and safer being monitored and far more transparent. One of the good things is that NHS hospitals are involved in the recruitment and interview directly. There is also plenty of support with relocation and visa applications. 

I was supported very well by the Trust when I reached the UK, we were received at the airport and accompanied to our accommodation. I was given good orientation and an induction to the workplace and culture. I completed my adaption programme and joined NMC register which took 4-5 months as I hadn't worked outside India at all. 

In terms of difference in culture I felt most people and colleagues were supportive and inviting. I felt the freedom as a surprise there was no interference and I had the freedom to travel and shop any time of the day. People were generally friendly everyone took a surprise to my name and took time to get used to call me by name!

I would say to anyone looking to come over to work and live in the UK that you don't need to stress too much as visa processing and relocation process is very straightforward and transparent these days. I would encourage everyone to do a bit of research of the local area and employer before you travel. Please make use of your contacts you have been given throughout, keep good communication with them and come with an open mind, expect the changes in culture, practice and embrace the changes.''

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Returning to Practice as an Allied Health Professional

''I studied BSc Physiotherapy course at Coventry University and during my studies I worked as a Healthcare Assistant at Warwick Hospital. Whilst awaiting registration I worked as a Therapy Assistant at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW)

Once registered, I worked at UHCW as band 5 Physiotherapist doing the core rotations, and then progressed on to a Specialised Band 6 Rotational role.

Before returning to practice, I was away from Physiotherapy for just over 2 years, I took a break from my career due to family commitments that required us to move location. I was only just over the time I needed to register but with Covid-19 happening during my time off I knew there would have been many changes. In order for me to be update to date with guidance and practise, it was best practise to pursue my carer through return to work.

I was in contact with the Wye Valley inpatient Physiotherapy team about potential bank work whilst in talking with The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) regarding my registration. My line manager became aware I needed to complete my return to practice (RTP) and kindly offered to help. After further conversations I applied and interviewed for a band 4 Therapy Assistant position on the bank, in which I was successful.  

I was able to complete supervised clinical hours whilst working at the hospital and then completed self-directed practice at home to complete the set amounts of hours required for the amount of years I had been away from practice.

I found it really beneficial to be able to work at the same time as doing the supervised hours, as this allowed me to gain exposure to clinical practice and being back in a ward environment whilst earning a wage as well. 

All the staff in the Physiotherapy inpatients department have all been very supportive during my return to practice. They have all helped and advised me how to use the systems and protocols, as well as advice working for the Trust and its surrounding areas. I was also supported in ensuring I received training and exposure to specific areas required for my clinical hours and self-study.

I would advise anyone thinking of returning to practice that it is not as scary as it seems. I felt quite nervous about returning but knew I needed to do it sooner rather than later, and I’m really glad I did.

Also by completing set hours after a break allows you to be up to date with new clinical guidelines. The HCPC guidelines do leave it up to you to decide how and what you need to do within your hours, so it’s a good idea to have a plan prior to starting to help make the process smoother. If you have other commitments there is also a 12-24 month guideline, which allows flexibility.

I’m currently really happy to be back in clinical work and plan to look for further opportunities to pursue this.''

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Why I chose the Return to Practice programme as a Physiotherapist

''I trained as a Physiotherapist at Salford University and qualified in July 2000.  I started my first job as a Rotational Physiotherapist at Sandwell Hospital and completed a variety of rotations as a ‘junior’ Physiotherapist.  I then got a job as a Paediatric Physiotherapist and worked on the Paediatric wards and in outpatients for a year or so.  After having my son, I did come back, on a part-time basis to provide training to newly qualified staff in Paediatrics.

At the time, a move to Scotland coincided with an NHS job freeze which meant I did not immediately seek a job in Scotland.  I then had my second child and so did not work for a while. During this time my registration lapsed and I was not sure whether I wanted to continue in Physiotherapy or look at other employment.  After some time, I decided to work part-time and started working as a Breastfeeding Support Worker.  I enjoyed this work although it made me want to work again as a Clinician with more responsibility and autonomy.

After moving back to England and the Midlands as a family and I was considering going back into practice.  I found out what would be required for me to do in order to return to practice through the HCPC website.  I enquired about an advertised job for a Band 6 Paediatric Community Physiotherapist at Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust.  I explained I was experienced although not currently registered and looking to return to practice.  The manager of the team at the time was clear that I could apply for the role and if successful would be supported to complete my return to practice.  They also encouraged me that if not recruited they would still be prepared to support me in returning to practice within the team, the hiring manager was really encouraging and enthusiastic about someone returning to the profession after a break.  I was offered the position after interview and went on to complete my return to practice hours and training with the team prior to starting in the Band 6 role.

Throughout the process, I was really encouraged by management and the team, who were positive about it and very supportive. I completed supervised hours of practice slowly building back my confidence and remembering my skills, which I thought I had forgotten. I also completed some formal and informal learning in my own time to enable me to complete the re-registration process.

I am now part way through my next challenge!... I am a Trainee Advanced Clinical Practitioner within Paediatric Physiotherapy and part way through my Masters for this.  Since coming back to Paediatric Physiotherapy I have realised that my life experiences and other jobs I had when out of Physiotherapy, along with my Physiotherapy experience, make me the clinician I am today.

To anyone thinking of returning to practice, I would give this advice:

  • The things you think you have forgotten will come easier than you think with practice
  • It is not as hard to go through returning to practice and reregistration with HCPC as you think it might be
  • A supportive team and manager make all the difference when completing your RtP
  • …. Go for it!


Read Why I chose the Return to Practice programme as a Physiotherapist…

From Bricklayer to Older Adult Mental Health Matron

‘’My name is Alex, I am Matron at New Haven, Older Adult Mental Health at the Princess of Wales Community Hospital in Bromsgrove. I’ve worked for the Trust since 2004, which is a total of 17 years now.

I left school at 16 and became an Apprentice Bricklayer, after trying that out I decided on a career change and started working for the NHS aged 18 for Solihull Primary Care Trust as a Residential Support Worker, supporting patients living with profound Learning Disabilities and complex behaviours

I then chose to complete an ‘Access to Nursing’ course alongside working in 2003, which allowed me to be able to go to University and study Mental Health Nursing which I commenced in 2005.

After qualifying in 2008 and I worked as a Staff Nurse in Psychiatric Intensive Care and Mental Health Recovery team. Within a few years I moved into a role as Deputy Ward Manager at New Haven, where I am now based. My career has progressed from there and I became Ward Manager and then Matron (my current role).

Within my current role I thoroughly enjoy working with our team as well as the opportunity to support positive change within the Older Adult Mental Health Pathway.

My advice to anyone thinking of starting a career in healthcare or working towards qualifying as a Nurse would be, be bold and open minded. When I first qualified or even as a student I didn’t expect to work within Older Adult Mental Health but it is where I have found my passion for mental health nursing and I find it truly rewarding and satisfying as a career.

I would describe our Trust as fair and inclusive. I have been given the chance to grow my career with this organisation and am thankful to those I have worked with over the years that have supported my development and given me the opportunities I have had.

I also enjoy the mixture of rural and urban culture we have in the county, we see a wide variety of patients and this helps us develop and further hone our skills as practitioners.’’

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A career in Older Adult Mental Health Nursing

Not everyone’s first career choice...

''My name is Peter, I work as an Older Adult Mental Health Nurse at the Stonebow Unit in Hereford. To help you understand how I found my current role I want to take you all back a few years first;

Imagine you’re in foster care, just left school at 16, with a pretty unimpressive array of CSE’s and an even worse school report. Well, contrary to the popular saying, I didn't feel the world was my Oyster!

However, I had my plans and I’d already passed a selection to join the Army as a ‘Junior Soldier’ at the Royal Signals Army Apprentice College. So off I went and completed basic and trade training. The army instilled a sense of pride, purpose and belief that you can accomplish goals and personal achievements with the right mindset.  

I then went to Germany to serve in an Electronic Warfare Signals Regiment. I guess for all you young ones, it’s probably like ‘Call Of Duty’ but with real people. I also found I was quite a gifted athlete, and generally achieved what I set out to do.

With my progress through Royal Signals skills, and my ‘get up and go’, my next calling was to serve with a well-known military regiment in Hereford.  By 30, I was married and decided to leave the Army, settled down in Hereford, start a family and a new venture.

I decided to train to become a Department of Transport Approved Driving Instructor, that was quite enjoyable, started a small driving school and things were going ‘okay’ but something was lacking after being in the forces for 14 years.

To contribute to the community in the evenings I became a Youth Worker, I enjoyed that and trained over the next few years gain qualifications in youth work and counselling. I also volunterred with the local Youth Offending Team, and sat of Youth Justice Reparation panels, perhaps in some way an atonement to some of my own wayward youthful experiences.

So where was I?  Perhaps it wasn’t the driving instruction that I enjoyed - but more the ‘just being with people’ and helping them in an intrinsic sort of way. Then one day I was reading the local paper, (as you did before the internet) and squashed in between the obituaries and the latest updates on the parish meetings was an article describing what being a Mental Health Nurse was all about.

The ad mentionned that so long as you’ve got a good life experience, dealt with life’s problems and could help other people in crisis, regardless of your age - come on down and have an assessment. 

You get those moments in life when everything just falls in place. The classic; ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ comes along; Only that’s just half of it. You must act in ‘the lifetime of that opportunity’.

So, I guess you see how things happen in life; sometimes things never turn out the way you plan, you get that odd ‘curved ball’ when you’re not expecting it. So why Older Adult Mental Health Nursing? By the time I’d finished my training I was too old to hang out on the skate parks with the young ones!  No seriously - although there is some truth in that, I have more of an affinity to Older Adults and their associated conditions. To me it epitomises the holistic approach to nursing reinforcing the conceptual notion that nursing is more than just a job, it is that harmonisation between art and science. 

I work on an Older Adult ward for organic illness, with a very supportive team, in ways like a family, in fact during Covid lockdowns they practically were my family. 

Now I guess in the twilight of my career, I spend time mentoring the new Student Nurses impassioning my own enthusiasm and belief that this is a valuable and worthy career with great pride.    

So my final message, you can’t re-live your past, but you can control your future, my children take inspiration by what I do and I am proud to say that my daughter is following in my footsteps.''

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The importance of work-life balance

''I started working with Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care Trust in October 2020, my husband job means he is not often at home and able to help with the everyday childcare needs. The past 18 months has been a tough times for everyone, and highlighted the importance of a good work-life balance and the need for a flexible approach to working everywhere.

In the last year, my young family has seen our eldest, start school and youngest move into his final year in preschool. From Day one, the Trust's approach to flexibility has been fantastic, and the burden of work has been diminished, if not removed.

Throughout the pandemic, the Trust has maintained good communications, I always know where we stand, and they have very much put our safety first whilst also being flexible and empathetic to staff needs. Enabling us to work from home, making hours and business fit around home schooling and helping with other pressures of being a working mum. The Trust has also been supportive in making technology work for us, providing the tools I needed to work in a timely manner, like a work mobile when needed, and great IT support for my home computers (both Apple and Microsoft) to ensure I could do my job.

And finally, the Trust's commitment to team building and a positive ethos has been amazing. I have worked for five trusts throughout the last several years all over the country due to moving around with my husband’s work, and nowhere have I felt such a harmonious working environment, that enhances the team’s ability to produce work to its highest quality, but also just makes it a wonderful place to work, and even though most of my time with the trust has been working remotely, I really feel part of something bigger, and feel valued. I know that there are areas of improvement as with any trust, and I hear and see them trying to improve the lives for everyone.''

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Hear from the chair of our LGBTQ+ Network

"My name is Graham Childs, I work for Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust as a Registered Nursing Associate. I am a proud person and I identify as Gay. I am also a member of the LGBTQ + Network.

I started working in health a nearly two decades ago. I started as a Auxiliary Nurse / Health Care Assistant on a surgical unit. Within my first few months I became patient. I received fantastic care, but I was also discriminated against because of my sexuality.

After being diagnosed with testicular cancer, I was not offered; support or counselling or the chance to make a deposit incase one day I chose to have a family. I only learnt of this by another patient going through the same operation. He had a partner and identified as a heterosexual male. He was sent to counselling and to make a deposit in case he needed to use it to have a family.

As a health care professional I have also experienced discrimination from patients, whereby patients have refused treatment from me because I am ''one of those'', when I asked the patient to elaborate they said 'well you are Gay'.  

So I have seen discrimination on both sides. That is why its important to me to be a better health professional. I have recently been supported by the Trust to go through training and I am now a Registered Nursing Associate.

I started at the Trust as a Band 3 Health Care Assistant and within 3 months was encouraged to go for my training. I have worked now in the Trust for 3 years and I have recently moved from Mental Health to Community nursing and I am thoroughly enjoying my new role.

I have also been part of the Rainbow badge project and represented the Trust at a local pride event and have now accepted the position of Vice Chair for the LGBTQ+ staff network.

My name is Graham Childs RNA. Welcome one and all to an amazing Trust which embraces diversity.''

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From HCA to Community Learning Disability Nurse

''My name is Amy, I work as a Community Learning Disability Nurse/ Trainee Advanced Clinical Practitioner within our Community Learning Disability Team and I’ve worked for the Trust for 8 years.

I have always worked within Learning Disability services – a large part of my previous experience was working as an NVQ assessor within day services provision. In that role I trained and supported staff to achieve their full potential and provide safe and effective care to adults with a learning disability. That role inspired me to get more involved with the health and social care side of learning disability healthcare, as I have a natural passion and drive for breaking down barriers and improving access to mainstream healthcare.

I started at the Trust as Community Healthcare Support Worker with the Community LD Team in 2013. During my time in this role, I studied part time to complete my functional skills Maths and English and then completed a higher level Diploma in Healthcare. My manager and team were extremely supportive and flexible with this development. Then in 2016, I  was offered a place at Birmingham City University to complete my Nursing Degree – the trust offered me a secondment to complete this 3 year BSc Hons Degree and I qualified/registered as a Learning Disability Nurse in 2019.

I returned to the team after successful interview and began a band 5/6 development role, within 6 months I had completed my preceptorship and became a band 6 Community Nurse. An opportunity then presented to consider a MSc development role starting in September 2020 – I applied and was successful securing my current role as Community Learning Disability Nurse/Trainee Advanced Clinical Practitioner.

The support and encouragement that I have received from the Trust, my manager, team and colleagues has been incredible. I feel as though I am working in my dream role, consistently being encouraged to develop and progress throughout my career. 

I am surrounded by wonderfully creative and exceptional nurses and health professionals that inspire me every day. I am encouraged and supported to develop my practice and interventions to improve health outcomes for the people who access our services. This is extremely rewarding, seeing the benefits of collaborative, proactive and accessible healthcare is absolutely the most favourite part of my role. I work within a multidisciplinary team which in itself provides a diverse range of skills and clinical specialities – I love this collaborate way of working as it opens up many creative suggestions and opportunities which help to inform knowledge and evidence based practice. I could not do my job without the support and guidance from the professionals surrounding me. It really is a wonderful work family of support.''

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