Finance

The long road ahead: Application to Trainee

Posted by Annabel Copeland, 24 Oct 2017

Hello everyone!

If you are reading these blogs, it must mean you are considering joining the NHS grad scheme or you got lost browsing the web. I was you last year. I finished Uni in summer 2016 and suddenly realised I needed to sort my life out and find a career - something I think a lot of people struggle with when struck with post-student life. After a few wrong turns I discovered I had two criteria’s for a job:

1)            Gain financial qualifications

2)            Work for a non-profit organisation

Luckily for me the NHS had the perfect grad scheme - you can study finance and do your accountancy qualifications, but you’re also a key part of a healthcare service helping people of all backgrounds across the UK.  It does what it says on the tin – a free health service based on clinical need and not on ability to pay. Why would you not want to be a part of it?

After filling out the initial application and taking the online tests (practice these before completing - lots of resources online) I was thrilled to be given an interview. Obviously like any unemployed keen and eager applicant, I prepared questions and answers, planned what I was going to say and was super nervous that all this effort would be for nothing. None of that mattered, as soon as I got in the room I forgot everything I had prepared and ended up just having a ‘get to know you’ chat.  The best advice for the interview I can give is be yourself – don’t exaggerate things you’ve done or change your behaviour in favour of what you think the assessors want, just be honest and let your personality shine through.  The NHS is a personal and passionate service, and that’s exactly what they want from you.  Moving right on up to the assessment day – which really isn’t as stressful as you think – try and have a good time, get to know current trainees and chat to other applicants, the more you stress, the worse it’ll be.

I left for my travels a few days after the assessment day, keen to run away from my unemployed, living-with-my-mum life. A long jet-lag influenced three weeks later, at 5am in a hostel in New Zealand, I got my offer for the scheme. It was all fun and games for the next 5 months away, with the comfort of knowing I was going to go home to a job and scheme I knew I wanted and was passionate for.

The Welcome event in Leeds is a great opportunity to meet and bond with other trainees, which is really important because you will be spending a lot of time with them over the next few years, and you don’t want to be a loner. There are numerous inspiring speeches from senior NHS staff, not just about our futures but also patient stories, really highlighting how important and unique the NHS is. After these three days of forceful but effective group bonding, you go off to your placement (Bristol for me) and become a real life adult.

We have just finished our month of orientation, where you spend your time shadowing and observing various parts of your organisation and the NHS in general. It’s an opportunity you will probably not have again -  some highlights for me were spending the day in A & E; having a tour of a prison; shadowing district nurses; the baby clinic (the cutest day of your life); and a day in the walk in centre, to name a few. Its jam packed full of interesting stuff – you kind of start to feel like a doctor.  You get to meet endless clinical staff and patients, and get so see everything that happens on the frontline. It’s really important because, as we’re all going into management style jobs, it will be easy to lose sight of the clinical side.  Every decision you make, every change implemented, will have a direct impact on how a patient is treated, their experience with clinicians and staffs ability to work efficiently and effectively. It also means you make a lot of connections with people across the NHS, in different trusts and associations which you will soon realise is a huge part of the network and something you use every day. As well as this, I’ve spent some time in the Finance team learning the ropes, asking stupid questions and attending senior meetings about the changes in my organisation. In my first week I sat in silence, nodding along and pretending I knew what we were discussing (due to the confusing world of NHS acronyms), but I’m slowly being able to have some input and get my head around all the different concepts.

I am a finance trainee, and this means I have accounting lectures weekly and exams in the beginning of December. It also means my scheme is almost 3 years compared to the normal 2. The lectures and exams are done remotely – you can sit in your PJs with tea and cake all day and listen to them, sounds dreamy right? In reality, even though comfort is key, it means you have a self-study responsibility and really have to motivate yourself. CIPFA so far has been challenging, especially since I did Psychology at University, so I barely knew what an invoice was before we started (I do now don’t worry). However, at the same time it’s really helping me with my training in the office, as I am able to use what I learn in the lectures to tackle my tasks. Catch me in a months’ time and I’ll be super stressed due to exams being round the corner – having a year off education makes it tough to get back in the swing of things.

GOOD LUCK if you are applying for the scheme, and if you were just lost I hope you’ve realised by now. I know how annoying applications can be, nerve wrecking and time consuming, and really not a barrel of laughs – but it’s the only way, and worth it in the end. I hope this was helpful, I’ve never written a blog before so let me know if I bored you to death and I’ll be more exciting in future. If you have any burning questions keeping you up at tonight, drop me an email at annabel.copeland@nhs.net or have a gander at my twitter @acopelandNHS.

Annabel Copeland

Annabel Copeland

2017 intake

I’m Annie, a Finance trainee on the scheme. I studied Psychology BSc at the University of Bristol, graduating in 2016. I spent the first part of my year as a graduate figuring out what career I wanted, knowing I wanted to do some form of finance but also work for a non-profit organisation. For the second half of the year I travelled Australasia and Asia which was amazing! NHS was a no-brainer, the more I researched, the more I discovered how my values matched and that this could be my opportunity to have a positive impact on people’s lives and improve patient care.

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