In need of inspiration to help you take the next step in your healthcare career? Take a look at this recent blog on the NHS Employers website, featuring Health Education England (HEE) training programme director Deepak Agnihotri.
He describes his impressive progression from an international student arriving in the UK to complete a postgrad qualification, to a programme director for HEE’s North West branch.
He’s now a registered allied health professional (AHP) and even more impressively, the first advanced clinical practitioner (ACP) physiotherapist to become an independent prescriber. Deepak now helps people with learning disabilities and dementia.
Deepak Agnihotri was born in India, where he completed his physiotherapy undergraduate degree before moving to Mumbai to start work. The next step was an even bigger change of circumstances, as he headed to the UK to complete his postgraduate studies in gait analysis and manual therapy at the University of Salford.
Even with a full raft of qualifications under his belt, Deepak explained that it wasn’t easy to land his first healthcare role:
“Even after doing an MSc and publishing research, I found securing a full-time job very difficult. I submitted hundreds of job applications before finally getting my first job at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.”
“I was very fortunate to have a clinical placement in the NHS supported by my personal tutor and head of school, but despite being a qualified physiotherapist, I didn’t have the information about the NHS and how it functions. That is the biggest issue that international students and recruits face.”
Based on his experience, Deepak believes that Trusts could do more with their websites to provide essential information on how the NHS in the UK functions. For example, providing explanations of terms such as flexible working which new employees from different cultures or backgrounds may not be familiar with.
Despite these challenges, Deepak’s career took another significant step forward when he moved into a Band 6 role focused on learning disability. This happened by chance, as he was covering a maternity leave position. But this opportunity, using all of his skills to treat a wider range of patients than most UK physiotherapists usually deal with, laid the pathway to his senior role at HEE.
How NHS Trusts can support international AHPs
Deepak Agnihotri’s experience as an international AHP is both inspiring and thought-provoking. Although his career trajectory is impressive and sets a fantastic example for those who follow him, Deepak’s journey was perhaps more difficult than it needed to be.
He faced issues with homesickness and missing his family, and felt that NHS Trust support could be much stronger for new arrivals such as himself. The recruitment process could also be improved, especially in terms of who to contact and the timeline for onboarding. He explains:
“Every recruit should have a copy of the timeline and process of recruitment, and employers should ensure that they have a single point of contact for every international recruit. This person should try to respond to emails in a timely way to help to build rapport and lessen the anxiety felt by the international AHP.
“My second suggestion would be that employers need to think about appropriate and dedicated pastoral support including going to the airport and receiving the international recruit when they arrive in the UK, because that makes a difference.”
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