Military to Medical

The uncertain political landscape and widespread cuts have led to concern about the future of the National Health Service in the UK. In fact, there has, arguably, never been a better time to transfer your Military skills to a career within the NHS.

By Rebecca Miller

The NHS, like the Armed Forces, is one of the stalwarts of British society. First launched in 1948, it now employs 1.5 million people, making it the largest and oldest healthcare provider in the World. Even so, the NHS is now facing a staffing crisis which is set to rock its foundations to the core.

Many people fail to realise that the British health service is also staffed by professionals from countries other than the UK, with over 60,000 (12%) people hailing from other EU countries. With Brexit looming large on the horizon, the future of many of these positions hangs in the balance. Although Article 50 has now been triggered, we’re still in a period of uncertainty and waiting to find out what changes, if any, will be made for foreign nationals seeking employment in the UK. Despite the fact that nothing is set in stone, the uncertainty alone has been blamed on the dramatic reduction in numbers of applicants from the EU.

Whilst this could be viewed as pretty damning for the future of the NHS, for ex-Service personnel looking to continue their careers on civvy street, this is, in fact an unprecedented opportunity. With the skills, knowledge and breadth of experience gained during your time Serving as a healthcare professional in the Armed Forces, you’re in the perfect position to step up and fill in the recruitment shortfall.

A job in the NHS is not an easy choice; far from it. It’s a vocation which sees staff facing different scenarios, problems and people on a daily basis but as someone who has Served in the Military, you will have unrivalled experience of working in similar conditions. This is something that recruiters are bound to look favourably on.


Many NHS Trusts across the country are now keen to utilise the skills and experience of Service-leavers as part of the solution to the looming staffing crisis. They need to take action, and they need to do this quickly in order to limit the damage that a rapid drop in applicants from the EU could cause.

Whilst they need a speedy solution, they still also need to maintain the high levels of training and skills found in NHS staff across the board.

Healthcare professionals trained in the Military not only have high levels of medical expertise and experience, but also a wealth of transferable skills and attributes such as leadership, team work, diligence, a sense of initiative, the ability to work well under pressure, excellent discipline and a strong work ethic, to name but a few. When it comes to applying for jobs outside of the Military, and to interviewing for these roles, all you need do is showcase these attributes alongside your medical training and expertise.

Finding the right role

For many, transitioning out of a role in the Forces and into a civilian job can, at first, seem daunting. However, a step into the NHS is one which is not so dissimilar to where you have been working. Whilst you’ll no longer experience the travel and unique work environments often encountered whilst Serving in the Military, you will still be working in an established institution which is focussed on serving others. You will still be working in a team of highly-trained professionals set on getting the job done, whatever it takes. The sense of teamwork and camaraderie is clear. When transitioning from a healthcare career in the Forces to one in the NHS, what is really important is that you go in at a level which matches both your current level of training and your experience on the ground.

There are a range of different roles available within the NHS, so it should be a relatively seamless move. The NHS Choices and the Health Careers NHS websites have a wealth of information about the different NHS trusts and roles, and are a good place to start with your research.

There are literally hundreds of roles in health for you to explore, with variations within each, as illustrated by the three brief examples herewith:

• Doctor – working as a doctor you will normally have a specialism, which could be anything from anaesthesia to emergency medicine or oncology.

• Nursing – The NHS has a wide range of nursing roles with areas including mental health, prison nurses, adult or paediatric nurses.

• Public Health – Including roles such as health visitors, health trainers and public health nurses. They work within a local area and often out in community settings.

The Health Careers NHS website gives a full breakdown of the careers framework, however, jobs are broadly split into nine levels across each of the departments and disciplines. These are:

Entry level jobs Support workers

Senior healthcare assistants/ technicians Assistant practitioner/ associate practitioner Practitioner

Senior/specialist practitioner Advanced practitioners Consultant practitioners

More senior staff

Whilst there is scope to move up the framework within a set discipline, people also choose to retrain and move across into different roles.

The NHS is actively encouraging applicants from the 20,000 people who leave the Military each year. They run open days and careers events to help people find out more about the options open to them. Whilst there may be some additional training for particular specialisms, the transition is often pretty straightforward for people who already have a healthcare background and with over 300 different roles in a typical hospital, there is bound to be one to suit you.

Healthcare professionals trained in the Military not only have high levels of medical expertise and experience, but also a wealth of transferable skills and attributes.

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