When I grow up I want to be...

In years gone by, if you asked a group of children what they wanted to be, the chances are at least one or two would say doctor, nurse or a surgeon.

Getting young people to come and work in the NHS should be a breeze then, right?

Unfortunately, it’s no longer that simple. Our workforce is aging with almost 30% of our staff now aged over 55. Part of this is because people are generally working longer but, even taking that into account, clearly we need to do a better job of getting young people interested and involved in all aspects of healthcare.

In addition, young people are in the fortunate position of having an unparalleled level of choice when it comes to careers. As an organisation, we can no longer rely on people queuing up to work in health care.

Take your pick?

As employers, we need to be more understanding of the dilemma this vast range of choice poses for young people. On the surface, it may seem to be a fantastic position for them but it can have a very real and, often unacknowledged, detrimental impact.

More and more, young people suffer from option paralysis with the sheer number of potential career paths, training opportunities and further education possibilities overwhelming them.

Those are just some of the reasons that, as an organisation, we are placing a renewed focus on getting out in front of young people to demonstrate the opportunities on offer. We also need to better understand what the obstacles are and work with young people to remove them.

The assistance of the Developing the Young Workforce programme in making connections and helping us take that work forward across our area has been truly invaluable.

Clinicians in a modern world

Part of the challenge is age-old stereotypes that could put young people off potentially rewarding careers with the NHS. Our recently launched Early Years Nursing Initiative, which is being piloted at Braehead Primary in Aberdeen, aims to do that by changing perceptions of nursing by targeting children in early years of education. Although career choices come later, the perceptions of who a nurse is and what they do, is formed much earlier.

If you look at a typical nurse costume for a child, for example, the uniform often comes with a cape and hat, even though these haven’t been standard uniform for decades. The tools they have may be limited to a thermometer and a fob watch, suggesting nurses do little more than take temperatures or measure pulses.

The reality of modern day nursing couldn’t be further from this but first impressions matter. In addition to a curriculum that outlines the true breadth of modern nursing, as part of the pilot we’ve commissioned the first ever child sized nurses uniform. The feedback so far has been enormously positive and we look forward to developing the project further.

It is just one of the projects aimed at attracting youngsters to become the next generation of NHS staff.

Here’s a small snapshot of some of our other recent work with young people:

  • Work experience placements offered to all schools in City, Shire and Moray for pupils.
  • Summer schools in partnership with RGU and the popular “so you want to be a doctor” work experience programme. Work placements for students and others.
  • Nurses uniforms for children in primary school.
  • Just completed the first non-clinically The Prince’s Trust Programme with 10 young people and a further event planned for spring 2019 with a clinical cohort.
  • Fully developed apprenticeship family (Foundation, Modern and Graduate)
  • Health Care Support Worker Foundation Apprenticeships.
  • Schools engagement initiatives and careers events across the NHS Grampian area.
  • A new Early Years Nursing Initiative pilot is underway at Braehead Primary, Aberdeen.
  • Working with Aberdeenshire Council to explore work placements.
  • Educational Partnership Pathways with our academic partners including University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University and NESCol.
  • In discussions to introduce a pilot of the national ‘Founders 4 Schools’ initiative which aims to provide students with business encounters that help them make fully informed choices about their future careers.
  • Apprenticeship frameworks – 9 at the moment, including clinical areas. We also offer the scheme in a wide variety of non-clinical areas including rehabilitation, finance, learning and development, engineering and others.

More than just medicine

NHS Grampian is the North East’s biggest employer - we have 15,000 staff with around 200 different roles and professions in our workforce and for youngsters who don’t dream about being a nurse, doctor or surgeon it might not even occur to them that the NHS could still be the place for them to build a career.

The means we need to do a better job of explaining that working for the NHS isn’t just about being a nurse or a doctor. In fact we employ more people in non-medical/clinical roles – from domestic staff, cooks and speech therapists to IT experts, dieticians and bus drivers.

That diversity is one of our strengths – we can offer young people a taste of working in healthcare, offer considerable opportunity for progression and the unrivalled satisfaction that comes from really making a difference in patients’ lives.

We are working closely with DYW to increase opportunities through an array of dedicated programmes and to make those that currently exist more accessible.

A rewarding place to work

The NHS is a special place to work and performs a vital role in people’s lives across the North East. More effective engagement with young people is critical to the future of the NHS as an institution and we are hugely grateful for the continued support and guidance we receive from DYW.