On our professional practice module we look at the NHS and what it’s really like to work there. Here are some reflections from students who attended a learning session on this topic:
It was much more interesting and positive than I expected
I did not expect the lecture to be particularly interesting and was worried that I would find it hard to concentrate and participate. I had also developed an idea that the lecturer would be fairly negative about the NHS as the organisation has received substantial negative publicity in recent years due to the recession and financial crises. For the lecture I had to listen to and participate in a ninety-minute talk and watch a video about the NHS from the 1940s. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lecturer was very enthusiastic and passionate about what he was discussing, and he was clearly aware of a general need for the use of health psychology within the NHS.
I can start considering a wider range of job prospects
From the discussion around the roles for HP within the NHS, it became clear that I might have been discounting jobs advertised as Clinical or Counselling Psychologist that may be suited to HP. Therefore, I am going to look on NHS jobs website at all the posts advertising for Clinical or Counselling Psychologist to see if the person specification can be met by my skills and experience. This will hopefully show me where potential openings may be once my MSc comes to an end.
Full of hope for what I can get involved in
Alastair then provided the opportunity to think about what role a health psychologist in the NHS could be. One of the ideas that were presented was that long term conditions will be problematic and as a result, health psychologists will be required to attempt to ease this burden. Learning this gave me a feeling of hope and I wondered how I could be involved with this.
Learning to work in teams and networks
I started to acknowledge that working as a health psychologist in the NHS, but also in general, would involve working in a multi-disciplinary team. This triggered the idea that I have not had much experience of this so I need to make steps so that I can get more familiarised with it. But Alastair did make it clear that it may be important for health psychologists to form a strong network with each other. On reflection I believe this is happening as having now attended a conference by the Midlands Health Psychology Network, health psychologists appear very supportive of each other.
I can see how my course can be applied in a practical way
I realised that I would need to identify posts and opportunities within the NHS where I can utilise my Health Psychology knowledge. Following this, I began to think about the “5 ways to well-being Campaign” by the NHS, that identifies 5 contributing factors to sustaining positive mental health, namely, connecting with significant others, participating in physical activity, admiring surroundings, learning something new and helping someone. I found myself considering ways in which I can integrate this campaign with the knowledge I have acquired from the current course. I imagined using factors from the campaign to construct a stress management intervention programme, while providing theory behind its effectiveness. For example, the use of action planning to help an individual to socialise with friends and families may assist them with stress management. It was necessary for me to have my thinking processes challenged in this way because afterwards, I was feeling confident in identifying where Health Psychology fits into the NHS as requested by Alastair. It was important for me to leave this session knowing the career paths I can pursue within the NHS and I feel this was achieved.
Not easy – but more options than I expected
This session has highlighted that the path to becoming a practising Health Psychologist may not be an easy one. If I want to work within the NHS in front line services such as cardiac rehabilitation, it may be necessary for me to hard sell my skills and the benefits of HP, in direct competition with Clinical Psychology. With the new changes being brought in by the coalition and extra responsibilities given to GP’s who have more autonomy over their budgets, there may be alternative avenues for me to explore if I want to work as a practitioner on the front line. This could be in the form of delivering interventions or behaviour change counselling within primary care as a consultant rather than seeing a permanent contract within the NHS as the Holy Grail.
I’m definitely going to look at jobs in the NHS
I aim to search online for NHS posts where I can utilise my existing skills and identify the skills I may currently lack. I feel inspired to update my curriculum vitae by including information about the modules I have completed and pass marks I have achieved. Moreover, I would like to broaden my understanding of health care services as satisfying my inquisitive nature is essential in my learning. I will aim to do this by reading a relatively recent book to broaden my understanding of health care services
I am growing in confidence to succeed
To be successful and to carve a career in this area I will need to be more proactive and confident. My confidence is already growing through studying the MSc and I have been proactive in locating work placements so far, therefore I need to build on this and not allow my own fears of failure and any negative opinions and barriers I may come up against distract me.
I understand the NHS much better now
I found it fascinating to look at a visual representation of the NHS now, illustrated as a wheel with primary and secondary care on either side and the public and patients in the centre. To me it showed an excellent representation of the NHS core principles and did give me pleasure in the knowledge that I was employed by an organisation with the public and patients at the centre of its values.
I want to work in a patient-centred healthcare system
From a health psychologist perspective, a person-centred approach is most important and this should be reflected throughout all aspects of our health care system, making me feel optimistic that recent reforms have the potential to generate a positive impact.
There’s a role for me!
Finally, we discussed our role as health psychologists within the NHS. As the new agenda seems to be on prevention and better health management, I felt hopeful that as a would be Health Psychologist I had a great role to play in the NHS, be it in health promotion or research.
I’ve been inspired and have been telling my colleagues
The lecture inspired me to share what I had learnt – I was keen to share with my colleagues the fact that the NHS was going through a change, although some were unaware of this, it did lead to several interesting discussions.
A word of thanks
The guest lecturer on this topic was Coventry colleague Alastair Gray. We are very grateful for what was clearly an inspiring session.