General Management

“Tell us why you chose to join the NHS Graduate Scheme”

Posted by Fiona Woodhall, 29 Jul 2016

Hello, my name is Fiona and I’m a Chemistry graduate from the University of St Andrews. My previous experience in the NHS or even in medicine is pretty much non-existent, in fact the closest I got was working for a pharmaceutical company during my year in industry. So why did I apply to the NHS Graduate scheme? Throughout the application process you’ll get asked this a lot; by interviewers, by friends, by referees and occasionally even by yourself!

I’ll be honest. I first applied because in the chaos of my final year at university when my flatmate said he was applying I got overly excited about the scheme. The opportunities the scheme listed, from the ever changing work environment to the education programmes, sounded perfect to me. It wanted to challenge me to improve myself whilst also giving me the opportunity to make a difference, not to sound too cliché. That week I had the online application open every day, filling in sections between lectures, practising for the tests whilst waiting for my experiments to finish and by the weekend I’d finished.

The New Year brought the news that I’d passed the online stage and I arranged my interview to be the day after I returned from a charity hitchhike across Europe. During my hitchhike, people would ask what my plans after university were and I’d mention I had an interview for the NHS in less than a week. After the initial surprise, everyone was keen to give their opinion on the challenges the NHS faced from the junior doctors’ contracts to waiting times. However, everyone agreed that our country was lucky to have a free healthcare provider no matter the flaws that came with. My interview came and the question was asked. I talked about all the challenges the NHS faced and how it was constantly changing to improve. Despite its challenges, it is always there to pick us up no matter who you are or what you earn. It may not be perfect but that’s why I applied. I love a challenge and what better challenge is there than to change the NHS to make it work best for everyone.

I was invited to the assessment centre which fell in the midst of elections at my Students’ Association which I was helping organise. Whilst all the student around me were trying to convince each other why they were the best candidate and what the role meant to them, I was trying frantically to get as much advice as possible for my first ever assessment centre. I had no idea what to expect so went in with the attitude to be myself; show everyone who I was and what this opportunity meant to me and use it as a learning experience. I can’t remember who asked me but at some point the question came up again. Why did I want to join the scheme? The elections reminded me that there are countless reasons to be motivated to pursue something and this time I answered more personally. When I was six the NHS saved my life. I had heart surgery in a hospital mere miles from the assessment centre. A few years ago the department I had my surgery in was almost closed but the public response reversed the decision. It amazed me how the NHS had to balance the desires and needs of so many people – the government, the doctors and staff, the public and, importantly, the patients. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to help balance all those spinning plates. I wanted to say thank you.

I thought I’d failed. I thought it would impossible for your first assessment centre to go well. I learnt so much that day and I was looking forward to using my experience to do better next time. I was actually in a car park on my way home to write my dissertation when amazingly I found out I’d passed and would be offered a place on the scheme. In fact, I’ll be working in one of the hospitals in the same trust as the one that saved my life.

Since that point I hadn’t really thought much about why I had applied to join the scheme and I was more concerned with learning about where I’ll be working and what I’ll be doing. I started following the NHS Million campaign (@NHSMillion) and learnt about the countless others lives the NHS has saved. I started reading documents from my trust and learnt about the changes they wanted to make to improve their services. Over the year, I’d spent time talking to friends, family, and strangers about the NHS and their experiences. I realised that everyone in the UK has a story and a connection to the NHS. Most of us know someone who was born in a hospital and someone who’s died. Most of us know someone who works for the NHS. I doubt if anyone in the UK can say that they have never once experienced some part of the huge network of services the NHS provides. The NHS is one of the world’s largest employers and it’s constantly changing. I want to be a part of that network and spur a change that makes a difference to someone’s life.   

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think there is one reason why you want to join the NHS, and I don’t think it’s always something you can put into words. This week I have to record an answer to why I applied and I doubt that even by the end of the scheme I’ll be able to give a 2-minute answer because for me there are so many reasons. It’s ok if your reasons changes as you learn more about the NHS and it’s ok if your reasons aren’t the same as mine so long as they are honest and true to you. For me it’s that feeling that I want to be a part of something that is helping others but also helping develop me. That when something is falling apart I’ll stick with it and fix it but hopefully I was able to prevent it and make a positive change. I want to say thank you and I’ll be there on the darkest days as well as the brightest. It’s that feeling of excitement for a constantly changing work place, for a challenge and for the unknown.

Fiona Woodhall

Fiona Woodhall

2016 intake

In 2016, I graduated from the University of St Andrews with a Masters in Chemistry. I applied to the scheme as I wanted a challenging and changing environment to develop my skills further whilst also helping others, whether patients, co-workers or anyone in between. During my degree I was involved in technical theatre and managing various events including charitable fundraisers. When I’m not event managing I love to travel or watch films with friends.

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