As over 750,000 people flocked to sign up to volunteer for the NHS during the Coronavirus pandemic and many others become involved in helping those in need in their local areas, it seems likely that interest in allied health careers may increase even after the crisis is over.
Allied health careers, by the way, basically includes anything that is not nursing or becoming a medical doctor. This interest may also be bolstered by the fact that these careers are relatively recession-proof and that the government has reintroduced maintenance grants of up to £8,000 annually to encourage people to engage in the required training for some roles. Finally, NHS Improvement calculated that between July 2018 – September 2019 there were over 92,000 full-time vacancies unfilled. The need is there. And who is to say more investment in the NHS will not follow in years to come?
Why take the plunge?
- Varied work where you get to use the full range of your communication skills
- Ability to see the results of the work you do, often with instant feedback
- Challenging problems and cases that require decision making and creativity
- Working in a team structure, or in some roles individually
- Digital and technological developments make this an exciting time to join the NHS or private healthcare providers
- For more on a selection of these roles see here. For a wider range of allied health careers see here.
But before you throw yourself wholeheartedly into making applications to train as a paramedic or a podiatrist, it may be worth answering some key questions for yourself. I suggest this from personal experience….as a jobbing actor aged 31½ I threw myself into teaching due to the offer of a £9000 training grant and lucrative signing bonus. I lasted 3 years in the profession – I could teach but some of the other aspects of the life of a secondary school teacher weren’t for me.
So what are some of the questions you need to ask yourself before committing yourself to a particular allied health career pathway?
1. Does this type of caring role suit my personality and skills?
There is more information on qualities needed for each of the role. See here for Occupational Therapist (it even has a short video).
2. Am I really prepared to get my hands ‘dirty’ and can I cope with the types of situation I may encounter?
I applied to medical school in my 20’s and then discovered I struggled with the sight of hypodermic needles, a phobia I luckily overcame before I started my first year. If you can get some experience even in a related care setting, or speak to those who do the work, so much the better. Direct experience can give you something to write about in applications and develop your network in the area. You will also need to make your own mind up about the “pressures of working in the NHS” – make sure you speak to more than just one person to get a balanced view. Remember in some areas, you may be working in a private healthcare setting or for yourself, for example Podiatrists are increasingly working in sports clubs, private clinics and high street clinics.
3. What is the progression pathway for the role?
The NHS site does not have so much on this but for many of the roles, there is good information at Prospects. Here is the page for Paramedic where you can see some of the roles you could move into over time.
4. How do I feel about completing another degree or further period of training?
It is important to think about how you would manage an additional period of training, possibly in an area or discipline that is new to you. To check this, you can find course information on-line and contact the course provider to see if you can speak to those that teach the course or current/ex-students. If you are applying later in the year, it is also worth checking if places are still available, they often are.
5. Can I afford it?
Although a £5,000-£8,000 grant may seem like a healthy sum, it is important to consider whether you can take out further loans for your course and how else you would fund your course and other costs. Again, the training course/degree provider may offer other financial support.
So it is clear that there are some great opportunities to train for allied health roles that are exciting, fulfilling, challenging and rewarding. But like all career choices, it pays to make informed decisions. Oh, and I found out with the needle phobia that the more confidence I got taking blood from patients for testing, the less liable I was to keel over in a swoon. So don’t feel put off by minor setbacks!