Career advice

Wales will welcome you with open arms

The country’s chief nursing officer explains the perks of working for the Welsh health service 

The country’s chief nursing officer explains the perks of working for the Welsh health service 

Conwy, a popular tourist destination in North Wales Picture: iStock

Over the last 70 years, healthcare has evolved significantly in the UK and the Welsh health system has seen many developments and innovations in practice. 

Wales is the birth place of the NHS and, as the country’s chief nursing officer, I am proud of the work nurses and midwives are doing to support and care for the 3.1 million people living in Wales. 

Since devolution almost 20 years ago, Wales has developed a distinct set of policies and legislation to support its nurses and midwives. In April we became the first country in Europe to legislate on nurse staffing levels. 

The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act protects the level of care given to patients and empowers nurses and ward managers to determine the levels of staffing they need. We know nurses in Wales are proud to work for the NHS, and the implementation of the act empowers frontline staff to make decisions about patient care.

A positive environment

Like other parts of the world, Wales has seen demand for nurses outstrip supply, which is why we have increased education numbers for nurses by 68% over the last four years. We have also maintained the non-means tested student grant of £1,000 and a non-means tested bursary for those who agree to work within the Welsh health system for two years after qualifying. 

Wales offers a positive, supportive environment for nurses and midwives to pursue their professional careers, and any nurse or midwife coming here will have a choice of working experiences, with opportunities for training and professional development. 

Our national marketing campaign aims to showcase Wales as an attractive place to train, work and live for nurses and midwives from all over the world. 

NHS Wales also has a new system in place to ensure it is as easy as possible for graduates to find a job. Our job matching service – the Student Streamlining Scheme – means graduates only have to complete one application to apply for all roles that might suit their skills. This scheme is also available to students who studied outside of Wales.

In October, we will launch Health Education and Improvement Wales, a new body which will develop the whole health workforce for Wales. This offers a huge opportunity to develop education and training options that allow for widening access, better workforce planning to match evolving service models, and support various career pathways. 

It will build on existing good work, such as the advanced practice framework introduced in 2010. The Welsh government annually funds advanced practice education places to enable health staff to extend their skills and knowledge base, with the emphasis increasingly on supporting staff to take on leadership roles at all levels within the health system.

Life beyond work

It is important to us that our nurses and midwives have a good work-life balance, so NHS Wales has working arrangements designed to help staff fit work around their family life. This includes flexible working hours, childcare voucher schemes and on-site crèche facilities. 

Outside of work, Wales benefits from a strong sense of community, affordable housing, great schools and many ways to relax and have fun. Wherever you are in Wales, you’re only a short journey from some of the UK’s best mountains and stunning coastlines, and there are plenty of things to do to unwind. 

We are also developing quite a reputation in some sporting areas, as Geraint Thomas’ recent Tour de France win demonstrates. I am Welsh, so I may be accused of bias, but I genuinely enjoy living and working in the country and can’t imagine being anywhere else.

I appreciate that moving to a new country can be daunting. We want to make the process as easy as possible by offering a relocation package to anyone who wants to move to Wales to work for the Welsh NHS. 

Hopefully this will help ease the financial pressures and make the move much easier. If you fancy a change of scene or a new challenge, Wales and the Welsh health system has a lot to offer.

Professor Jean White is the chief nursing officer for Wales 

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