"I think my three-month placement in Australia has been one of the highlights of my traineeship with the NHS," reflects Andy Williamson who works in recruitment at Guy’s Hospital in London. "That and seeing a baby being born by caesarean during my first week’s orientation, which was pretty amazing – I think I was more proud than the father."
Being involved in a frontline cause is what initially drew Andy to work in the NHS. "It sounds corny but I really feel that the work I’m doing is making a real difference and, because of the nature of the job, the work environment is generally very positive. There’s a good spirit and NHS camaraderie," he says.
Like many others, Northumbria University student Andy graduated from his history degree without a clue what to do. After working in insurance for a couple of years he went travelling and on his return in 2004 decided that he’d like to work in human resources. He took a job as a personnel admin assistant to gain some background experience and began looking for -organisations that would offer a traineeship and also put employees though the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development qualification. That’s when he came across the newly launched HR traineeship in the NHS.
"The NHS offered three different placements with really good exposure to all areas of the organisation," he says. "Each placement was HR related and you could also take the chance to work in healthcare abroad, although you need to set that placement up yourself."
After an eight-week orientation programme, his first placement of six months was an operational management job, managing 14 people at St Barts Hospital in London. "It was quite daunting, as I didn’t have any experience managing people before," he says. "However it meant I learned loads in my first role." He then moved on to work for East London and The City Mental Health trust. "took an HR adviser role focused on the Improving Working Lives initiative, which is an NHS scheme aimed at making the organisation a better place to work." Then, after three months at a hospital in Gosford, Australia, redesigning their induction programme, he returned for his final placement of six months at Homerton Hospital in Hackney, London, focused on improving the diversity in recruitment.
Andy is now in his first non-trainee role working at Guy’s Hospital in London. He feels the scheme has been an amazing experience. But you do need to be able to cope with pressure, he says, both when you are studying for your CIPD while working and when you are dealing with pace of hospital life.
"There is quite a lot of red-tape as public money is being spent and people working in the frontline don’t always understand why they have to go through certain procedures," he says. "My job is to stay patient and help them but you do need to be -resilient. This is par-ticularly true at the -moment, as the NHS suffers from financial problems and some people are unsure about their jobs."
But he believes that the NHS is a great place to work. "It’s built a strong foundation for my career and I’m doing something I really enjoy," he says. "There are many misconceptions about working for the NHS but there is huge job satisfaction in working to support frontline staff like nurses and doctors."
GRADUATE TRAINING SCHEMES: BACKGROUND
The NHS offers a range of schemes to graduates which combine early responsibility in real jobs with a professional or postgraduate qualification. Graduates can consider the General Management Training Scheme, which offers the opportunity to gain postgraduate qualifications in healthcare or general management; or the Finance Scheme, where trainees study for Professional Accountancy qualifications or the Human Resources Management Scheme, where trainees can study the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) qualifications.