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Dave Smith - Transformation Project Manager

From the Military to the NHS - My Story

The transition into civilian life after a full and rewarding career can sometimes be a daunting experience.  Finding the right job that offers job satisfaction, competitive salary, opportunity to progress and indeed challenge me was what I was after; however sometimes we want different things from a job.  This is my story.

As a logistician in the Army, one of my many responsibilities was the provision of service support and making sure that vital supplies and equipment needed were supplied at the right place and time in the right quantity required.  I knew then that the Armed Forces relied on everyone working together to achieve its mission.  My career choice offered many challenges and opportunities and by fully embracing them I was able to progress through the ranks from Private to Commissioned Officer (Captain).  I was always up for a challenge and completed some of the hardest arduous physical courses available to me.  The military gave me the opportunity to travel and operate in lots of foreign countries of which many were armed conflicts, these included:

  • Afghanistan
  • America
  • Brunei
  • Bosnia
  • Cyprus
  • Germany
  • Iraq
  • Kenya
  • Kuwait
  • Rwanda
  • Sierra Leone
  • Switzerland

During my time in the military, I was fortunate to have served alongside some great people and very respectable leaders. 

On realising that the military lifestyle would soon come to an end, the process of ensuring that the skills in leadership, management and logistics trade that the military had taught me were mapped to that within the civilian environment.  Several educational development opportunities were embarked upon leading to a degree in Supply Chain Management, Diplomas in Management, NEBOSH Health & Safety and several Project Management courses.  This process was to be extremely beneficial when applying for jobs. 

After leaving the Army in 2011 and pursuing a career as a Logistics Director for a local firm, I had a massive change of heart in what I wanted to do.  Job satisfaction and work life balance was not right and therefore everything I did and had worked hard to achieve was about to change. 

After a close military friend had died of a heart attack, the decision was made that there was more to life than status and money.  I had made up my mind.  I wanted to help people as this is something that gave me great joy when working on humanitarian missions worldwide.  The logistics profession that I had chosen all through my career was about to come to an abrupt end in order to pursue a new career in personal care as a Carer looking after people in the community.  Was this career suicide I thought! 

Working as a Carer was an extremely rewarding job, but working for a private company, there were schedules to keep to.  Because of this at times there was an inability to give the full person focused care to some service users that I wanted to give.  A decision was then made to apply for a job in the NHS at my local hospital, Stafford as a Clinical Support Worker (CSW) and this is where my journey continues.     

Upon application, I was fortunate enough to be selected to work in an Acute Cardiac Unit (ACU) where I was responsible for looking after patients with acute cardiac problems.  This role was extremely enjoyable and rewarding.  I was able to give the right care and attention to those that needed it.  During a 2 year period in this role, a lot was learnt about cardiac problems, symptoms and the procedures that cardiac patients undergo to address and treat their condition.  In order to ensure the patient journey from admission to discharge was a smooth as possible, the job relied on good team work and clear communication.  This was something I was used to. 

Over and above my clinical duties, other administrational and health & safety tasks were voluntarily carried out that got me noticed by the management team.   

Working 3 long day (12 hour) clinical shifts per week, there was additional time to dedicate to further development.  The opportunity to work in Medical Division Management office was offered and I volunteered to work for the remaining 2 days.  I am very grateful to the Manager who gave me this opportunity.  During several months voluntary work, I worked alongside some great managers and colleagues gaining valuable information about the various specialities, how Directorates work and all the support elements associated with how the hospital operates.  This was very familiar to me, as like the Armed Forces, there are lots of staff and departments that support the front end services and everyone has an important part to play.        

An Operational Services Manager (OSM) position soon came up in the Division and my application was successful based on my qualifications as a manager and the experience gained.  The role incorporated responsibilities for the management of several specialities.  This was similar to that of a Troop Admin Sergeant in the Army and as part of this role; I was able to use many of the soft skills around people and resources management that the Army had taught me.  The role exposed me to a fast paced environment that offered new challenges, opportunities and where no two days were the same.  Part of my remit in this role was to run the Medical Division Health & Safety Meetings and associated actions for the Division.  This is where the next chapter in my career continues.

During one particular meeting, I met the Trust Health & Safety Manager.  After a brief chat, I was told about a Health & Safety Advisor position that was being advertised.  To cut a long story short, an application was submitted for this position and was successful based on the required NEBOSH qualification held and the skills needed such as the ability to devise and deliver training.  This is a skill that was gained through being a Senior Training Instructor and Manager of the Army Supply Trade Training School.

I then became a Health & Safety Advisor for around 5 years and operated in a small, fantastic team (including another military veteran) that worked across 2 hospitals (County Hospital, Stafford and Royal Stoke University Hospital (RSUH), Stoke) supporting and advising a staff group of over 11,000 people.  This role was incredibly varied and involved teaching, assessing and advising on risks and control measures, assessments to name a few.  During my time as an Advisor, the ability to gain new skills in Health & Safety through professional progression training routes has been given to me.  My previous military training and skills were recognised and are constantly put to use.  Both myself and my colleagues actively involved ourselves in projects designed to continuously improve what we do and streamline processes.  My skills and knowledge were then channelled in helping to keep our hospital staff safe in order that they can keep our patients safe and well.  

The Next Chapter.

The NHS offers the ability to progress into various roles and careers (as long as you meet the criteria of the post that is).  I had always longed to be a Project Manager involved with improvements and my Army resettlement courses were very much geared to this (Prince 2, APMP, Lean 6 Sigma, MS Project).  When a role came up within our Trust for a Transformation Project Manager, I jumped at the opportunity and applied.  After a successful interview process I am now in this role.  This is a role I truly love and is fully suited to my personality, and my thirst to make things happen.  Every day is different and I look forward to coming to work and interacting with my team mates to deal with the daily challenges the role offers. 

And this is where the journey ends…. or does it?

The moral of this story is that the NHS has many career opportunities on offer to military veterans and their families who possess the right skills, knowledge and share the same values and standards.  Being part of the military equips its personnel with the necessary skills and experience associated with leadership, management, project work, communication and team work etc.  In addition to those skills and experience, whatever trade route is chosen may also be of benefit to the NHS. 

Check out the NHS Jobs website for the various career opportunities open to you.  Like the military, there are great benefits such as competitive salary, great holiday entitlements and good contributory pension scheme, to name a few.