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Career changers - the armed forces

People who have been in the armed forces have a great set of transferable skills that will be a credit to any NHS organisation.

Step into Health logo Health Education England has spoken to a number of AHPs who have previously worked in the armed forces to develop a suite of video and written case studies to share their real experiences making their step into a career in the NHS.


Making the step into health - what is an AHP?

Armed forces into allied health (AFIAH) report

Every year large numbers of service personnel leave the armed forces, 14,630 in 2021 (House of Commons, 2022). When re-joining the civilian world, many face challenges, not just with everyday living, but with work and study too with many of their qualifications unreadable and misunderstood by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

To help those leaving re-train and work within the allied health sector we commissioned a research project exploring peoples’ experiences of transitioning from the armed forces into the allied health professions. Our research found several issues ranging HEIs not understanding qualifications gained during military service, to relevant qualifications and experience not being considered. As such, there is scope for improvement and work needs to be done to benefit individuals but also to help with the widening participation initiatives that Health Education England (HEE), HEIs and healthcare providers adhere to.

Read the full report and recommendations.

Other reports which stem from this work include: 

Further information and case studies

Thursday 24 September 

Developed as part of the collaboration between HEE and Step into Health, to raise the profile of AHP professions with armed forces personnel.

Suzanne Rastrick our Chief AHP Officer opened and provided the opportunity to see the work created, but also look at how we can attract a potential highly skilled workforce to become an AHP professional registered or non-registered.

Introduction recording with Paul Chapman and Suzanne Rastrick

Post-workshop recording with Paul Chapman

Jerome Atutorno - Diagnostic Radiographer / former Royal Logistics Corp
Jerome Atutornu served as a Logistics Specialist in the Royal Logistic Corps of the British Army until 2009. His career included working in the UK, Iraq and Canada.

Jonathan Cousins-Booth - Music Therapis / Ex-Royal Marine
Jonathan Cousins-Booth served eight years as a musician in the Royal Marines Band Service and when he planned to leave, he knew that he wanted a career where he helped people and made a difference in the lives of people who were struggling or disadvantaged.

Mark Bunce - Student Speech and Language Therapist / Former Royal Artillary
Mark Bunce spent 22 years in 26 Regiment Royal Artillery, working with communications and computer systems. Although he still serves as a reservist with The Royal Yeomanry, he left the regular army in 2008  and was focused on finding employment which would enable him to support his family and maintain their lifestyle.

Dawn Ball - Paramedic / Ex-Combat Medical Technician
Dawn Ball joined the British Army at 17 and served a 22-year career. Dawn’s lifelong dream was to train as a Paramedic and she saw joining the Army as a way to gain some experience. Initially she worked as a Combat Medical Technician and her service included a tour of Kosovo.

Kenneth Gourlay - Physiotherpaist / Ex-Engineering Officer
Kenneth Gourlay was a Major in the Army working as an Engineering Officer on helicopters. When he left the Army at the beginning of 2013, he wanted a new career he enjoyed and where he was helping people; he wanted to both make a difference and be able to see that difference.

Lawrence Ambrose - Podiatrist / Ex-Royal Navy
Lawrence Ambrose was a Radar plotter and seaman in the Royal Navy from 1988- 1993 with his service including the first Gulf war and a tour of the Antarctic, but when he left, plans for his next career were not foremost in his mind.

Andrew Macmillan - Osteopath / Engineering Technician
Andrew McMillian served as an Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineering) in the Royal Navy, before leaving in 2011. When thinking about his career outside the forces, his thoughts naturally focussed on using his existing skills and perhaps working as an electrician; a career as an allied health professional was far from his thoughts.

Ashley Smith - Dietician / trainee Electronic Technician
Ashley Smith was a trainee Electronics Technician in the British Army. When he left in 2000 he didn't have a clear idea of what career would come next but did know that he had a keen interest in sport, fitness and eating well; would it be possible to combine those interests into a future career?

Ben White - Student Occupational Therapist / ex-British Army
Ben White was a Lance Corporal in the 9/12 Lancers regiment of the British Army, but when he left in 2005, he wanted a lifestyle over which he had more control, where he would be able to plan future events and not be at the ‘beck and call' of anyone else.

David Williams - Physiotherapist / ex Royal Marine
David Williams achieved a childhood ambition of joining the Royal Marines in 2012. He had always wanted to be in the military and thought he would have a long career there.
However, a series of injuries caused David to be medically discharged after only three years, and it was clear that he would have to start mapping out a very different future for himself.

Paul Wicklen - Diagnostic Radiographer / Aircraft Airframe Technician
Paul Wicklen was an Aircraft Airframes Technician with the Royal Air Force until 2006, when the toll of so much time away from his family was a driver in the decision to leave the forces and pursue a new career.

Steve Harris - Therapeutic Radiographer / Avionics Technician
Steve Harris had a long career in the Royal Air Force, serving for 23 years as an Avionics Technician working on various aircraft types and workshops, including small systems I.T and test equipment calibration and control.

Victoria Hain - Operating Department Practitioner / ex Royal Engineers
Victoria Hain was an Officer in the Royal Engineers until 2017 when she decided, after 17 years and a fantastically varied global career, that it was time to leave.