Inspiring healthcare careers

“I hope all of the cadets have been inspired by their experiences and if they decide to continue their path in healthcare – whether as a doctor, nurse or midwife, or in one of the many other roles available – they will be welcomed with open arm.”

Those comments were made by the Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May, as she welcomed the first group of graduates from the NHS Cadet programme. Launched in 2020 the programme, which is run in tandem with the St John Ambulance Brigade, aims to provide teenagers with a basic understanding of a healthcare career.

Alongside first aid training the cadets learn leadership and other skills as they help out with NHS vaccination centres or support clinicians by assisting patients. Whilst the programme actively seeks out those from marginalised backgrounds as well as those currently not in employment, education or training, it also looks to attract those who might not have previously considered a career in the NHS.

The next tranche of cadet programmes starts in September 2021. Running across more than 55 sites, the programme will accept “more than 1,000 cadets on the foundation pathway for 14 to 16-year-olds, and around 500 on the new advanced pathway for 16 to18-year-olds.” In this, the volunteer cadets will join countless other volunteers who help out in a number of roles across health services.

Volunteering can help cadets to gain a glimpse of the more than 350 careers which are available across the wider healthcare profession. Commenting on the programme the Chief Executive of St John ambulance said: “St John has partnered with the NHS on this ground breaking programme because we know that access to a career in health represents a brilliant future, especially for young people who have faced challenges in earlier life.”

Of course, volunteers should not and will not replace trained healthcare practitioners. But by supporting patients, they can help to ensure that healthcare practitioners focus on providing timely and effective healthcare solutions. And with resources stretched, in particular following the Covid pandemic, any way in which time pressure can be reduced in the health service is to be welcomed.

Even simple approaches such as sending SMS text reminders to encourage people to attend appointments can help to smooth out patient flow and optimise treatment time. Not only can SMS texts remind those who may have forgotten about an appointment, they can also encourage those who are unable to attend to cancel in good time, thereby freeing up time slots for others to make use of.

Or how about the provision of an online booking service? With patients taking the lead in making the booking, not only are they more likely to choose an appointment time which best suits them, they are not taking up valuable clinician or support staff time in managing the booking. In a time pressured world even simple steps such as these can help to reduce time congestion; thereby enabling health practitioners to concentrate on providing good levels of ongoing patient care and perhaps in the process inspiring others to join a healthcare profession.