First step back into civilian life

Monday 6 March 2017

Ebenezer Gberbie and Neil McKie web

Life back on civvy street can be a daunting prospect after years in the armed forces.

But a project that helps service veterans apply for jobs and get work placements in the NHS is helping them carve out a new life after leaving the military.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ is one of 10 NHS organisations in London and the South East taking part in the Step into Health scheme. The Trust has provided 35 placements and nine permanent jobs for service veterans since it joined the scheme in 2015.

Neil McKie, a former army officer who trained at Sandhurst, successfully made the move into health when he became an assistant service manager in the Dental Department at Guy’s Hospital in November 2016.

Neil joined the Army in 2005 and commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps which included working with the Parachute Regiment, where he managed 120 soldiers. At the age of 32, and thinking about getting married, Neil felt it was time to move on. He says: "I'd done Afghanistan. I'd done Iraq. I'd done everything I wanted to do in the Army."

Through a chance meeting Neil was recommended for the Step into Health scheme and began with a two-day placement in the operating theatres at St Thomas' Hospital in March 2016. A further placement in A&E saw Neil working with the service manager to prepare staff for the move into the new state-of-the-art Emergency Department.

He says: "By doing the placements and talking to people around the Trust they could see what I was capable of. So when you apply for other jobs in the NHS it’s like an endorsement

"Now I manage 11 people. There are similarities with the Army like the standards and procedures. But there are huge differences and challenges. I’m having to work differently, finding new ways to motivate staff and squeezing in patients who walk in the door in lots of pain for example. It's very different but very satisfying."

Ebenezer Gberbie has joined Guy’s and St Thomas’ as a Project Support Officer for the Step into Health scheme. Ebenezer joined the army in 2011 and spent his last three years in the military in Army Recruitment planning events and activities in schools, colleges and communities.
He says: “I came from a military background. My grandfather served with the British Army in World War II and was very proud of his military career so I wanted to join up.”

After leaving the Army Ebenezer did his first Step into Health placement at Charing Cross Hospital before working for St Georges University Hospital in Tooting and then landing his new job at Guy’s and St Thomas’.

He says: “Coming out of the army and making that transition to a civilian career is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. In many ways the Army is like the NHS. There are lots of different jobs. You can be a soldier but you can also be an accountant, a doctor or an engineer. No matter what your experience there is definitely a job in the NHS for you.”

Staynton Brown, Associate Director of Equality and Human Rights at Guy’s and St Thomas’ says: “Service people think differently, are efficient, disruptive - asking observational questions to get us to change our way of working - and are calm under pressure and resilient. These are skills we are looking for in the NHS and these are people who can make a real difference to the major projects we are planning in the future.”

Last updated: March 2022

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