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My CUH Story - Armed Forces Week - Neil McKie

Members of the armed forces community are being reminded of the career opportunities and wider support available at CUH during Armed Forces Week, 20-26 June 2022. We recognise the importance of supporting our armed forces community, charities and other related organisations.

Neil McKie, deputy operations manager - perioperative care services, served in the Army for seven years, joining as Officer Cadet and being promoted through the ranks before being commissioned as an Officer. His final post was as Captain before leaving the Army in 2011. Here he shares his experience of transitioning from the armed forces to the NHS.

Photo of Neil McKie when he was in the army. He is wearing army camouflage uniform, stood in front of a tank and near a sign saying hospital emergency department
Neil McKie

“As a medical support officer in the Army it was my role to command, lead and manage a multi-disciplinary medical team, provide medical evacuation advice and to plan, deliver and maintain medical provision both on exercise and on operations. During my time in the Army I was deployed twice, to Germany and Afghanistan.”

After leaving the Army Neil worked in sporting event management for two years before the need for a more flexible working lifestyle led him to become a personal trainer and Pilates instructor for three years.

Neil said: “After a period of working for myself and not knowing what to do for a future career, I discovered Step into Health through the Officers’ Association and attended an insight day at the Royal Free in London.”

Step into Health helps ex services personnel to gain employment within the NHS and at that time was piloting the scheme in London, Leeds and Southampton. Neil was part of the national launch involving HRH Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

Neil comments: “Step into Health provides a great insight into the NHS. They provide connections and organise networking events, visits and work experience. They also offer support throughout the application and interview process, as well as help with personal statements, which was really invaluable.”

The crossover for anyone in the armed forces is so logical, I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

After successfully completing several years in the NHS in London – initially at the dental centre in St Thomas’ Hospital and then at Evelina London Children's Hospital and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - Neil wanted to reduce his commute to work so moved to Cambridge and secured a role at CUH in August 2021.

Neil is smiling at the camera. He has shortly cropped light brown hair and blue eyes and is wearing a pale purple shirt, open at the collar
Neil McKie, deputy operations manager - perioperative care services

As deputy operations manager for perioperative care services, Neil helps to oversee the day-to-day running of a department that carries out up to 500 surgeries a week. He said: “Each morning I check what the day holds, making sure our staff have what they need to deliver effective patient care in the theatres through the successful planning and delivery of services and resources. It’s my job to manage any challenges as they arise using my risk management skills, for example carrying out as many elective procedures as we can without compromising our excellent standards of care – balancing the risk with the reward for our patients.

“The skills that I developed in the military have supported me in my NHS role; skills such as: leadership, communication, project management, building relationships and understanding the bigger picture. Each skill does have to be adapted to blend into a very diverse culture, nonetheless they are all compatible.

My military ethos and transferable skills have made it easy for me to fit in my team. I feel that my previous logistics and medical management skills and ‘can do’ attitude have been invaluable.

“I do miss the social side of the Army – mess life was fun! However I don’t miss going away for six months. I’ve found a job I like, the prestige of CUH is second to none and I’m really enjoying working in a hugely supportive and proactive team.”

There is so much more to hospitals than just doctors and nurses. There are lots of roles that former armed forces can help fill with their expert skills developed during their military training and deployments.

When asked what advice Neil would give to anyone in the armed forces who is looking to transition to a role in the NHS, he said: “Identify your strengths, speak to people in the NHS and find an area within the NHS that will help you use those strengths. Understanding where you could fit in is difficult from the outside – using an organisation like Step into Health helps you decode the job descriptions and gives you someone to connect with.”

Neil is happy to act as a mentor for anyone from the armed forces in CUH or possible future employees seeking a role here from the armed forces. Neil can be contacted on neil.mckie@addenbrookes.nhs.uk or neil.mckie2@nhs.net