5 Reasons to Move From the NHS to the Charity Sector

4 minute read

More and more staff in the NHS are in search of a better work/life balance and are quitting due to burn-out. The Observer reported in February 2022 that a record number of staff, 400 a week, are leaving the NHS. If you’re one of those people, have you thought about the charity sector as your next career move? Not only is it rewarding work, but there are many different types of charity, and there can be some niche roles for healthcare workers.

Here are five reasons to move from the NHS to the charity sector:


1. There are many different types of role available

The charity sector has a variety of roles for doctors, nurses, midwives, allied health professionals and other healthcare workers where you can use your clinical knowledge and speak to, or see, patients. For healthcare workers with expertise in mental health, there are many charities of different sizes that specialise in this area.

Your knowledge of NHS services, when and how they can be accessed, as well as where a charity could best target its energies, will be of enormous value. In addition to this, whatever your area of competence, your clinical knowledge will be priceless.

Some examples:

For example, if you’re a midwife for Tommy’s, your role might be to:

  • Help the wider team to develop a support service for high-risk groups experiencing miscarriage.
  • Provide information about early pregnancy care pathways and future treatment options.
  • Work with the pregnancy information team in the development, delivery and promotion of the service.
  • Ensure delivery of accurate clinical advice to pregnant women throughout the UK through multiple channels.Charity workers brainstorming with post-it notes

Another example is if you’re a paediatric nurse for a charity. In this case, the role will be quite similar to working on an NHS children’s ward. However, an advantage is that you won’t usually be working 12-hour shifts, as is common in the NHS. Instead, you’ll have more flexibility in the hours that you do.

Some roles may be more generic and move away from direct one-to-one patient interactions. For example, if you’re a dietician, you could find a role in a diabetes charity. It may then be more the case of using your knowledge in a ‘public health’ sense, to improve awareness of the condition. Yet another example is that if you’re an audiologist, you could find work in a charity focusing on deafness.

You’ll have many skills that can be transferrable, for example:

  • communication skills
  • management and leadership skills
  • empathy
  • team working skills
  • time management
  • taking the initiative
  • problem solving
  • adaptability and flexibility

Job titles in charities might be different to what you might be used to in the NHS. Some examples of the relevant role titles that you might find in the charity sector are:

  • Research manager
  • Health consultant
  • Service manager
  • Communications manager
  • Advocacy manager

2. You can choose  to work with a particular type of patient or client body

If this is important to you, whether it be children, refugees, or older people, just to name some examples, then there is a huge amount of scope to find a charity that provides services to this group.

Find a career with meaning

3. You can work in an environment that aligns with your values and share a sense of purpose

People in the NHS often go into healthcare as they want to help people. This is an excellent fit with the charity sector, in terms of shared values and having a common sense of purpose. You’ll be working alongside a wide range of colleagues, from volunteers to stakeholders, towards the greater good.

4. There are opportunities for flexible and part-time working, or having a portfolio career

In many charity sector roles, it’s usually expected that people will be working a Monday to Friday, 9am– 5pm routine, most of the time. There’s usually flexibility offered around those hours too.
Charities are usually open to part-time work, which can be useful if you have other commitments to work around.
Working for a charity can also open the door to a portfolio career. This is where you choose to work in a range of different roles, using different skills. A portfolio career can also include doing pro bono or voluntary work. It could therefore mean that you could work some days for the NHS and some days for a charity.

Women working at laptop with puppy

5. There might be opportunities to work internationally in global health

Usually in the NHS, if you wanted to work internationally, you’d have to agree with your employer to have a sabbatical period so you could practice overseas. Often then you would be going overseas in a voluntary role to provide your services where there’s a need.

If you moved to a role in an international charity, it’s quite possible that you’d be able to go on overseas trips. You could even be posted abroad for fixed amounts of time. This can be very attractive for healthcare workers who want to move into the area of global health.

Note that if you want to work in international development and/or global health, having a master’s in this area can be very helpful.

If you’re looking for an alternative career to the NHS, there are many opportunities in the charity sector. It’s well worth exploring the roles that are out there. If you work for a charity you’ll be focused on driving change and helping to improve the lives of others. This can feel highly rewarding. Look for the key charities in your area of expertise that pick up the burden that no other organisations provide in our society.

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Lisa Stone

Lisa is a careers and leadership coach who has experience of working with both healthcare professionals and those in the charity sector. She is a keen blogger on subjects around careers and coaching, and you can find more articles written by her on her website: https://lisastonecareersandcoaching.co.uk/blog/

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