Catriona C.
Graduate HR Management Trainee
Specialism Human Resources

About Catriona

Key Experiences

My German and English lit degree became a career in HR in the NHS
I studied German and English literature at the University of Exeter before deciding I wanted to move into HR. The NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme stood out to me as the ideal opportunity, and I started on the HR stream soon after graduating. During my first placement, I have been working in a specialist acute hospital as an HR Adviser and learning the foundations of HR practice. I am now moving on to my flexi placement at Nuffield Health and my final placement at Health Education East of England, where I will be more involved in the learning, training and organisational development aspects of HR and working at a more strategic level.

Current Position

I have been building the foundation for a career in HR
My role in my first placement has been as an HR Adviser. I advise managers across the Trust on various issues including sickness absence, disciplinary and conduct issues, capability issues, recruitment and selection, pay and leave, redundancy and retirement, appraisals - and a whole lot more! I also provide training on some of these issues, and meet with managers and their staff if the discussions they are having need HR support. I am often involved in the monthly Trust induction for new starters, and regularly shortlist, interview and appoint successful candidates to roles in our own department and across the Trust.

I have also been trained to sit on Agenda for Change job matching panels, which means I work with a group of others to establish what banding a new role should be, and therefore what the salary scale should be. In addition I have had some involvement with our work experience and apprenticeship programmes, and this is an area of work I am looking to develop as I progress in my career.

I have also been working on a project that looks at introducing an appraisal system for our bank staff, to bring them in line with the rest of the Trust.

Main Motivations

I am learning so much about myself, other people and HR in the NHS
This first year on the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme has been a steep learning curve for me, as I had never previously worked in the NHS or in HR! I love the variety of people I get to work with and learn from and how this challenges my values and assumptions and make me re-evaluate. I am enjoying building a good knowledge base of some of the basics of HR that I can use as a foundation and a stepping stone for where I want to go in my career, and being able to think through and review which areas of my role I most enjoy and might like to pursue longer term. I love working for the NHS and am proud of it, knowing that while I have very little patient contact, my work is always contributing towards a better service and improved patient care. The team I work in are great and we are constantly asking each other questions and discussing how we should move forward with particular cases or issues. Being a part of a wider network of trainees across the country means I have a really good support network, both professionally and personally, and a great basis on which to form future contacts. The education alongside my role underpins all the practical things that I am learning with the necessary theory. It's hard work but I have grown a lot in all aspects since starting on the Scheme!

Top Advice

Make the most of the opportunities given to you
You might, like I was, not be 100% sure exactly what you want to do career-wise - but if you throw yourself into a particular opportunity, you will begin to find out what it is you enjoy, where your passions and interests lie, what you are good at, and how this might fit in with the environment you're in. Not everything will fall into place immediately, and starting out in a new career is never easy, but it is always worth persevering. The NHS Graduate Scheme is incredibly hard work, but I make sure I maintain a good work-life balance and still see friends and family, and look after my health and wellbeing. Think through the values that you want to take with you and how you want to work, the kind of person you want to be - but be prepared for that to be challenged and for it to change as you progress in your career! Surround yourself wherever possible with people who are prepared to challenge you and see the potential in you. Be aware of the impact you have on people around you as you go about your day to day role, and seek out opportunities to encourage them. And most of all - keep smiling!

Greatest Achievement

Getting this far!
If you'd have told me 18 months ago that I would be confident in employment law, know how and what to say to people asking all kinds of queries and have worked with such a variety of people across an NHS organisation from senior management downwards, all while studying for two post-graduate qualifications, I probably wouldn't have believed you! The Graduate Scheme can seem like a daunting challenge at times - but I have made it to the end of my first placement and can look back and see just how much I have learnt and developed in my time here, and have a much clearer idea going forward of the kind of role I would like to be in and how I want to work, and can see the steps I might take to get there - which was almost unthinkable at the beginning of the Scheme!


Whatever your future leadership ambitions are, the NHS offers a fantastic start with a variety of challenging placements in an organisation that is wholeheartedly determined to provide equal opportunities to all employees. Selection for the scheme is based solely on aptitude and ability to ensure we have the best leaders for the NHS.

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