Leaving the army just as COVID-19 struck, Judith volunteered to train and work as a Healthcare Assistant providing patient care in her neighbourhood community hospital. Judith was also employed during the pandemic as a pre-screener in her local Primary Care Network-run vaccination clinic. Realising that she had more to offer the NHS, she is now relishing using her many years of army experience to make a difference in health and care.
Judith is now employed by SCW as a Digital Transformation Consultant leading the year-long Phillips Ives Nursing & Midwifery Review on behalf of the Health Education England (HEE) Digital Readiness Education (DRE) programme. Here she tells her story:
How it all started
I commissioned as a 19-year-old and was posted as a fresh-faced Second Lieutenant to Germany as a Platoon Commander. A further Germany tour followed as the Assistant Adjutant to an Engineer Regiment and the only female officer.
The highlight of my Short Service Commission was a posting as an HQ staff officer and Officer Commanding the Women’s Services in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, two years after the conflict. I thoroughly enjoyed these years but the 80s was not the best time to be part of the army’s minority (10%) female contingent. So, after nine years, I took the opportunity to move across from my Ministry of Defence job where I was responsible for army recruitment advertising, to join a top London advertising agency – poacher turned gamekeeper!
Since then, I enjoyed a ‘portfolio’ army career, employed in a succession of full and part-time roles whilst pursuing a civilian career in marketing and business development. Working within a predominantly male army, I became robust and self-sufficient and this resilience has served me well.
My early service opened my mind to a world of possibilities and gave me an appreciation of what I am capable of. Having left full-time education from school to join the army, during my service I was selected to attend Staff College at the French Ecole Militaire in Paris; I gained a diploma in French; and achieved an executive MSc in Information Capability Management.
Making the move
For the last ten years of my military career, I worked at the Land Warfare Centre, where I led an Op ENTIRETY (Afghanistan campaign) Urgent Operational Requirement project to deliver the Army Knowledge Exchange (AKX), an army-wide system for sharing assured knowledge to help meet the army’s requirement to transform into a learning organisation.
Some months after leaving the army whilst working in the local hospital, a member of the ward team (also employed by SCW – thanks Emily!) recommended that I approach SCW with a view to using my programme director experience. I joined SCW as a bank programme manager in the spring of 2021, initially on a three days per week basis, to scope an HEE DRE pilot which involved liaison with the Royal Navy.
I subsequently assumed responsibility for the workstream responsible for the programme’s digital leadership offerings. I have since been promoted within the DRE programme to lead the year-long Phillips Ives Nursing & Midwifery Review on behalf of the Chief Nursing Information Officer (CNIO) for England.
My advice for making the same move
- Attend NHS briefings hosted by the Career Transition Partnership, resettlement organisations such as the Officers’ Association, and NHS Employers-sponsored Step Into Health initiative.
- Do your homework. Read 'How does the NHS in England work and how is it changing?' and 'Careers in the NHS'. This will give you an idea of where your skills might fit best and ensure that you are prepared for an interview.
- If you are keen to work in a particular region, then research local NHS organisations and look at their websites. These will tell you whether they have signed up for the Armed Forces Covenant Employer Recognition Scheme. If they have, then they will welcome applications from the armed forces community and may provide the details for someone to contact for further information.
- The NHS loves LinkedIn (and Twitter). However uncomfortable you find it, put together an online profile relevant to the NHS and start following and engaging with NHS organisations. You will soon identify armed forces-friendly organisations and NHS employees with an armed forces background who you can network with and ask for advice.
- Do not rely on others to do your leg work. You have to make contact with NHS organisations/employees yourself.
- People working in the NHS move jobs frequently and see them rather like postings. Your first NHS role may not be an ideal fit but it will give you the opportunity to understand the organisation, look around and develop a new (NHS) network. See your first role as the launchpad to your new NHS career.
- Consider working on a bank engagement to start. This does not provide you with security of tenure but it is low risk for the NHS organisation, which means they are more prepared to take you on. It also means that you are in the driving seat and is a great way to try out working for the NHS.
- Good luck!
Read more personal stories of career moves from the armed forces into the NHS.