After spending 20 years as a Queen Alexandra (Royal Nursing Corps) officer, Carol Kefford is now a chief nurse with Nuffield Health.
I didn’t have anything against the Army. The Army has always been extremely good to me and I’d had a really, really fantastic career. But I was married and living somewhere where I would never be able to get posted and a job came up with Nuffield as Matron at their hospital in Oxford which was my home.
What did they think about your Military background?
They were extremely positive about it. Over the years they have recruited many people from the Services and so they have a very strong understanding (of Service-leavers) and it was made extremely easy for me to transition. They helped with my resettlement process and they funded (over and above my resettlement) additional courses for me.
Nuffield have their own training academy where they run a lot of courses, both in terms of professional development and personal development so I was able to access some of those. I left the Army 10 years ago so what’s available with Nuffield (today) is far and beyond what was available to me 10 years ago. For me, the important thing is that the mindset within Nuffield is all about making transitions easy and making peoples’ induction into Nuffield as easy as it can be, regardless of your background. That’s just gone from strength-to-strength.
Do you find yourself drawing on experiences you gained during your Military career?
All the time. If you’re an Army nurse, you may have a specialty, you may not, but whatever, you need to be flexible. You need to be somebody who relishes different experiences and have a sense of fun and a bit of a sense of adventure. Nuffield fits all of those things extremely well for me. Because they are smaller independent hospitals you have a mix of specialties on one ward. You don’t get that if you work for a huge NHS Trust. If you’re a theatre nurse, you will be working with different specialties rather than say, just only ever doing orthopaedics. There’s a variety of workload. It suits me in the same way that it suited me in the Army.
What are the key differences between the private sector and the NHS?
I wouldn’t say ‘better’ or ‘worse’; I’d say ‘different’. It suits some people better than others. Nuffield is a not-for-profit organisation; it’s a registered charity where in terms of the values and ethos of the business or of the company it’s all about caring for the patient in the same way that the NHS is. You have to do that economically and sensibly by making really good use of resources so there are still the same pressures to do things efficiently, tactically and correctly.
There can be a misunderstanding that the independent sector is all minor surgery and cherry picking the easy stuff and that’s absolutely not the case at all. It’s every bit as exciting and interesting and patient-focused as anywhere I would want to work.
There’s nothing wrong with the NHS. They do a great job but what’s also drawn me to the independent sector is that because you work in a smaller hospital where you know everybody, you get a sense of community. So you’re part of your hospital but you’re also part of Nuffield. It’s very personal, in the same way as the Military is. The Military is all about your relationships with your colleagues and the buddy system and it’s like that at Nuffield as well and that’s another reason why it suits me so well.
What can a Service-leaver realistically bring back from their experiences?
You get massively different experiences. So somebody working in a burns unit in an NHS Trust has different experiences to somebody who’s working on the orthopaedic wards. Now what somebody coming back from Afghanistan is bringing back is using that technical expertise from the care that they’ve been giving but also flexibility and a mindset that’s flexible – they like a challenge. So, if somebody only ever wanted to work in Afghanistan doing emergency surgery, then coming back to a private hospital isn’t going to fulfil that need for them. What they want to be is in an operational environment doing that kind of work – so something more to do with international aid or something more appropriate.
Somebody with a skillset who was recently in Afghanistan could find themselves wanting to work in a role in a community based organisation like Nuffield where we have that sense of community. They could bring their skills and we’d love it. It certainly wouldn’t be that they’d be unable to contribute.
Do recruiters really understand Service-leavers? Do they need to angle their CVs in a certain way?
Everybody in the HR team at Nuffield knows that I’m ex-Military and knows where we’ve got other ex-Military people in the hospitals. We have a lot of exposure and understanding of CVs using different (types of) language. We don’t need to make a judgement on that. What will count for us is if the person is ex-Military. That says so much about the quality of that person. The HR team have completely involved me in how they can reach out to people who are in the Military and also how they can help with the transition from the Military. Nuffield make that as smooth as possible.