If you grew up with a passion for medicine, you may have considered taking the long and challenging path of becoming a doctor. Once qualified, a doctor is able to take lots of different career paths in all different areas of medicine. It is an extremely rewarding job that combines science with a passion for improving people’s lives.
However, the basic training to become a doctor is 4-7 years, then if you want to become a GP you have to train for a further three years. Other specialities can take around 5-8 years further training on top of your medical degree. Some areas, like pediatrics can take even longer. With that in mind, it is no surprise that many people just don’t have the drive and passion to learn for that long. It is a lot to ask of anybody, and only those who absolutely cannot see any other career for themselves get stuck in for the long hall.
So what about everybody else? Perhaps you want a career in medicine or in healthcare but you don’t want to spend nearly a decade training. Perhaps you want to help people, but in a less pressured role.
In March 2017 the NHS employed 106,430 doctors. But they also employed 285,893 nurses, 21,597 midwives, 132,673 scientific staff and 19,772 ambulance staff.
There are many different roles in healthcare you can train in that are not quite as lengthy a career journey as that of a doctor. Here are just some of the roles you should consider in healthcare:
A healthcare assistant will usually work in a hospital or community (usually both and everything in between) with support, direction and authority from qualified medical professionals. A healthcare assistant job could also be described as a nursing assistant because usually you will be under the guidance of a nurse. A large part of the job relates to helping patients with personal care. Washing them, talking to them and taking their pulse are just some common HCA jobs.
Within a hospital or GP surgery you might take blood samples, do basic health checks and refill rooms with equipment like swabs, leaflets and sterilised examination tools. To become a HCA you currently don’t need any particular qualifications to apply for training, but employers prefer good Maths and English GCSE’s and may prefer an NVQ or similar in healthcare. Voluntary work or previous experience in healthcare roles like being a carer will help with application.
Nursing is known to be one of the most challenging careers in the NHS. Nurses work in all different settings within the community and even inside patients homes. Many different types of people from all different backgrounds with many different health issues require the skills of nurses. When you become a nurse you could work in a hospital, or you could be working in a GP surgery, a specialist clinic a school and various other community bases. When you qualify as a nurse there are various specialist areas you can work in as a nurse, such as neonatal units and sexual health, so there is a lot of room to pursue a particular passion within healthcare.
To qualify as a nurse you will likely begin your career as a nursing assistant before going on to do a nursing degree or apprenticeship. The Nursing & Midwifery Council has released figures this year suggesting that there has been an increase in the amount of midwives and nurses leaving their register and the amount of people registering has slowed down too. This means there is a strong need for new nurses in the NHS and there is no shortage of jobs available.
Being a midwife is a privileged position, helping women get ready for, and go through labour, then supporting them in the early stages of being a new mum. You can work as a midwife in different areas of the community, and you will likely be in different areas within one job role. For example: you may work on a labour ward some of the time, and do home visits at other times. Your job will involve helping women who need monitoring, guidance and support throughout pregnancy, labour and during the postnatal period.
To become a midwife you have to do a midwifery degree and as the job has such a high level of responsibility, it is important to be passionate about the career. The Royal College Of Midwives published a report last year which showed that the current rates of training and admission only resulted in one new midwife into the profession every two years. Like nursing, there is a desperate need for new midwives to join the profession.
A phlebotomist is the ideal job for somebody who loves science and healthcare. In your job you will take blood samples from a patient and send those samples onto a laboratory. Although the job is done for diagnostic purposes, it is a job that requires a caring manner as most people are at least a little squeamish about having blood taken. There is also a lot of skill and precision in phlebotomy because you have to carefully locate the vein and take the blood, work around the patient’s current condition and carefully label and store the blood samples.
As a phlebotomist you might work in GP surgeries, clinics, hospitals and in the community. You don’t need any specific education to be a phlebotomist but you may need at least two GCSE’s and a relevant BTEC or NVQ. Relevant voluntary work is also highly advantageous.
Online resources such as Phlebotomy Examiner who provide information for anyone looking to become a phlebotomist. This assists in being in a position ready to apply for any phlebotomy job.
If you really want to be on the front line and you want a fast paced job within medicine, then a paramedic job could be perfect for you. Paramedics respond to 999 calls and have training in emergency care. Although part of your job will involve giving emergency treatment to patients before taking them to hospital, there is a lot more to the job. A large aspect of it is community care, and you’ll likely be diagnosing problems and treating them in a patient’s home. This is to ensure only true emergencies go to hospital.
Recent media reports have suggested that stress is a major issue amongst UK paramedics. For this reason, there is a detailed and thorough application process to apply to become an ambulance technician which is the starting point to working up to being a paramedic.
There is no specific qualification or experience needed, but voluntary work or experience in a care-based or medical profession will be advantageous with your application.
These are just some of the health care jobs available as a career if you don’t want to be a doctor. The NHS is currently in desperate need of all kinds of new recruits in every aspect of health care. If you think you have what it takes to work in health care in the UK, there’s a world of amazing opportunities out there for you to take so you can have the health care career you have always dreamed of.