Penny's story

We caught up with Penny Buchan to hear all about her career at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) so far.

What were you doing before you joined UHS as a healthcare assistant?

I hadn’t worked in healthcare before I became a HCA - I actually came from a retail background. I had worked my way up to management level while studying at University and decided that it wasn't something I wanted to pursue further. I’ve always wanted to help people - I did a degree in psychology and a diploma in counselling, so I thought moving into healthcare might help me pursue that side of things a bit more. One of my retail team members mentioned that their partner was a healthcare assistant and I thought it sounded quite interesting. I didn't realise that these kinds of roles existed; that you didn't need any entry level requirements or to come from a healthcare background.

What was the application process like?

I applied for quite a few healthcare assistant roles on the NHS jobs site and got an interview at UHS. I was offered a position and they asked me if there was a certain area that I would like to work in. I was drawn to surgery because I liked the idea of helping get people patched up and moving them on their way. I joined E8, which at the time was the Urology and Hepatobiliary Surgical Ward.

Have you had many progression opportunities at UHS?

When I mentioned my background in psychology to some of the education team, I was told that I could do my nursing training as a postgraduate. So six months after joining as a HCA, I applied and got accepted onto the course. I did my training with Southampton University - it was a two-year course, during which I was able to drop my hours to part-time. My ward was really accommodating and supportive of me doing my training. Within two years of joining UHS as a HCA, I had qualified as a nurse.

After spending a year in a different surgical ward, I then decided to explore how I could put my management experience to good use. An opportunity came up for a Band 6 role and I got it! So, less than a year after qualifying as a nurse, I was then Band 6. It was quite a quick progression, but at UHS, if you’re keen to learn, you have plenty of opportunities to take on more responsibilities and develop your skills and experience further.

What’s the best thing about working at UHS?

UHS is a really large teaching Trust. So it naturally fosters an environment of wanting to learn and grow. Here, you're challenged to develop and are encouraged by supportive teams. I love learning, which is why I think nursing's a great career for me - and at UHS, I'm constantly evolving.