PhD, Advance Practice Nursing PgDip, Nursing BSc (Hons)
Mark chose to study at BCU as it was one of the only university’s to offer a three-year Nursing degree at the time. After thriving in his course, Mark went onto excel in his chosen industry and is now Chief Nurse of Health Education England and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England, as well as a Visiting Professor right here at BCU, and has recently received at CBE for his services to Nursing.
“Growing up, I moved around a lot. My dad was in the army, so I was born abroad and moved around due to his postings across the world. That was until I decided to study in Birmingham, back in 1991. Like many during that time, I was one of the first in my family to go to university. However, in the early 90s, there was a general perception that you didn't need to have a degree to be a nurse and it was very unusual at the time.
Birmingham Polytechnic was one of the first degree programmes that offered a three year degree. At the time, most nursing degrees were four years in England. We were one of the first to do a three year programme, which meant the intensity of the training was increased, but also it had a really good and flexible curriculum. There were also lots of stuff that we were taught around social science, sociology and also, importantly, psychology. We did a lot of work with social workers, as well as the physiology department, which was fantastic.
I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Nursing, with a registered general nursing certificate, in 1994 before returning to study for a Postgraduate Diploma in Advance Practice Nursing, which I graduated from in 2000. I then came back to BCU to complete a PhD in 2011.
I really have had a phenomenal career in nursing, and it's been hugely varied and interesting. After I qualified, I spent a lot of time working in emergency care across the Midlands in various different roles, and I became a nurse consultant in emergency and trauma surgery, which was one of the first roles of its kind back in the 90s. Back then, we did a lot of work around understanding advanced practice roles in development, and that led to a number of initiatives that we implemented across the NHS around trauma management in particular, looking at how advanced practice works. I then moved into leadership roles.
Nowadays, I’m the Chief Nurse of Health Education England and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England, so I have a huge responsibility for the delivery of the future workforce of the NHS. As Chief Nurse, I have the responsibility for training and education of student nurses and midwives, which is around 50,000 students across England.
I also have a joint role as the Deputy Chief Nursing Officer of England, and that role encompasses a range of responsibilities around aspects of policy, including national workforce policy and delivery, looking at many aspects of things like safe staffing, critical care and development, as well as training and education.
Most recently, I have also led the national NHS vaccine workforce programme, with the delivery of 15 million vaccinations in its first phase. The programme recruited and trained over 250,000 people, including 90,000 clinicians and 70,000 volunteers, to launch one of world’s fastest programmes. I also led the deployment of student nurses in the pandemic responses, together with 71 universities across England.
Alongside those responsibilities, I am also an academic. I am a Visiting Professor at BCU, where I supervise PhD students, and I also support research students at Staffordshire University too. I like to keep up to date with research and support academically, as so much of my role has a research focus to it as well. For example, I lead on national nursing midwifery strategy for the Chief Nurse of England and look into how we can develop nursing research across England.
The biggest challenges I have faced in my working career have been in the last two years, working to support the delivery of the NHS in the response to the pandemic. It has been a hugely challenging time. We realise this has had a huge and devastating impact on the country, but also the globe and health care workers. It has really stretched every kind of capability that we've had in terms of delivering what we need to do for our country. I'm always super impressed that we did a lot of work with student nurses and that they have been involved in the pandemic response.
Leading on the vaccine rollout was super busy and intense. But our goal was to vaccinate and save lives, and that included recruitment of all NHS staff, volunteers, and our military colleagues to get them geared up to be able to deliver the first vaccine, which we did here in the Midlands. 72.5% of the population have now been vaccinated so far, that’s over 40 million people in England. I think it's just a tremendous achievement and something so many of us can be proud to have been involved in.
Since graduating, I am most proud of working for Health Education England and supporting the pandemic. Our students have been amazing during this time and so brilliant in terms of the response to pandemic. It's been a real privilege to work with them and their universities in the support of the pandemic response, but also our wider NHS staff. The work that they have done has been a really huge, proud moment for us all.
My advice to current nursing students is that your degree will give you a whole host of opportunities for you when you go into the profession. It has been an amazing career for me because I have had the opportunity to work in clinical practice, research and in leadership roles of a trust level and national level, all of which came out as a result of my training and education within my undergraduate nursing degree. Find your passion and what you want to do with your career and look for the opportunities available.
I’m proud to be a BCU graduate. It is a great university in a fantastic city, and I still live here in Birmingham 30 years later. I've seen the University grow and develop enormously over that period, and I'm really proud of the work that has been done in terms of widening participation, as well as course programs, developments and also importantly, the research agenda. I've seen BCU grow at delivering high quality education and research outputs, but also, give back to the city.
BCU has been alongside me for every stage of my career, and they have supported me every step of the way.”