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Could the NHS give your career a second chance?

We share real life stories from some of our members to shine a spotlight on careers in the NHS and how one could change your life.

NHS Life Changing Careers

Everything happens for a reason

Opening up your exam results can be petrifying, but to open them when you have a set career in mind, to find that you just did not make the grade can be devastating.

Rebecca experienced exactly that when she had set her heart of a midwifery degree,

"I had a place waiting for me to go to university to be a midwife & that fell through. All of my friends were off to uni & I had no place & no plan. "

But she went on to tell us just how miraculous that failure had actually been,

"... it was the best thing that ever happened to me! "

She had woken up on exam morning, hoping to go off to her planned university place but the universe had something else in store for her. It was 2011, and she had received E's in Maths, Biology and Chemistry. Things were looking a little less than rosy.

After some time travelling and working in Australia, she came to the conclusion that the Ambulance service was something she wanted to try. After applying to a few ambulance services she landed one in Oxford.

"I have adored my last 18 years in the service & don’t regret failing my A-Levels once! It might not have been my plan but it was the best route for me. And I still went to uni, just at 25 rather than 18, to study the right subject this time (Paramedic Science) & I got a 1st!"

An Unexpected Journey

We spoke to Toni Evans, one of our group members who had come on a journey - an unexpected one - and ended up studying to be a mental health nurse,

My advice to anyone who is potentially considering a career within the NHS is to follow your dreams. Being a mature student, I didn’t think it would be achievable. But everyone you work with is fully supportive and will help you in any way they can to make your dreams a reality.

Toni had suffered with postpartum psychosis, and just a year on she had successfully passed her first degree assignment on the path to becoming a mental health nurse.

She had left school with no GCSEs above a D, and in 2019 had two hospital admissions for perinatal mental health illnesses following the birth of her baby. In 2020 she was still under the community perinatal mental health team. In 2021 she studied maternity health care and graduated from University and in 2022 began a degree in mental health nursing after my experience in 2019.

Toni shared much of her journey, with the Family Lowdown group,

I'll ALWAYS be grateful for the perinatal mental health services that helped me during such a difficult time.
If you're thinking about making that career change, do it. Age, grades and having my background haven't stopped me.

Want to know more?

Sign up to receive lots of helpful updates and information from the NHS Careers site here:

If you have any specific questions you are struggling to find an answer to, there is also a helpful careers service - the NHS Health Careers contact centre and their details are as follows:

Phone: 0345 6060655

Not sure what career could be right for you?

You can take the careers quiz here - read on to find out more about becoming a paramedic or mental health nurse.

How would I become a Paramedic?

To practice as a paramedic, you’ll first need to successfully complete an approved degree in paramedic science or with an apprenticeship degree. You’ll then need to apply to an ambulance service as a qualified paramedic and register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Paramedic science courses usually take between three or four years full time and include a mixture of theory and practical work including placements with the ambulance services.

Entry requirements for an undergraduate course are typically:

Two or three A levels, including a science, along with five GCSEs (grades 9-4/A-C), including English language, maths and science

or equivalent qualifications:

  • BTEC, HND or HNC, including science

  • A relevant NVQ

  • A science- or health-based access course

  • Equivalent Scottish or Irish qualifications.

There are lots of progression options available. You could become a team leader, supervising other paramedics and emergency care assistants, specialise in a specific area like strokes, or work for the air ambulance. With additional training, you could become an experienced paramedic, which is a senior role with more responsibilities. Teaching, research and management roles are other options.

How would I become a Mental health nurse?

To become a mental health nurse the main route is through a degree course.

Entry requirements for different universities do vary, but typically you'll need a minimum of five GCSEs at grade 4/C or above, possibly in English language or literature and a science subject, plus two A levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications for an undergraduate degree.

Some universities may ask for three A levels or equivalent. If you already have a degree, you might be able to study for a postgraduate qualification.

There are other routes into mental health nursing such as nurse degree apprenticeships and nursing associate apprenticeships.

Don't forget - academic qualifications aren’t everything. Communication and interpersonal skills are crucial, as well as strong judgement, be able to teach advise and manage people.

Is there any help available?

If you're eligible, you'll receive at least £6,000 a year towards your studies while at university. Your personal circumstances may mean you could receive more. And the good news? The best bit? You'll never have to pay it back!

NHS Careers Event

Why work for the NHS?

Here are some reasons why you might want to start a new career in the NHS:

  1. Gives you purpose: The NHS is dedicated to improving people's health and well-being, and as an employee, you will play a vital role in delivering this important mission.

  2. Opportunities for advancement: The NHS offers numerous career paths, including nursing, medicine, administration, and many more, with opportunities for advancement and professional development.

  3. Work-life balance: The NHS is committed to supporting its employees' well-being and provides flexible working hours and arrangements to help balance work and life commitments.

  4. Job security: The NHS is a stable and secure employer, with a high demand for skilled professionals, offering job security and the potential for long-term career growth.

  5. Learning and development: The NHS invests in the development of its employees, providing training, education, and opportunities to develop new skills and knowledge.

Starting a new career in the NHS offers a unique combination of personal fulfillment and professional growth, making it a great option for individuals seeking a meaningful and rewarding career.

Find out more on NHS careers and sign up to receive mor information here:


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