Opinion: Experiencing the NHS from a Gen-Z Perspective | Kimia Ipakchi, NHS NEL CCG
How working as an intern in the NHS has restored this young Iranian woman's faith in humanity
I was on-edge on my first day at NEL CCG. It was a myriad of firsts for me: first time working in the NHS, first time as an analyst, first time leaving university and working a ‘proper job’.
Now, eight months into my year-long placement, this excitement has not faded.
"As an Iranian woman, I have had my fair share of being ‘othered’ in public spaces, but genuinely felt welcomed by my team"
My placement is a Data Analyst Trainee role at NEL CCG’s Insights team, helping support analytics and insights surrounding population health and inequalities. Due to my interest in the intersection between data and social issue, I naturally applied. Yet, despite being selected, I could not shake off the imposter syndrome of being a humanities student in a technical role.
These nerves, however, did not last very long. As an Iranian woman, I have had my fair share of being ‘othered’ in public spaces, but genuinely felt welcomed by my team, comfortable enough to learn the coding skills I had found so daunting originally. Now I can manipulate and visualise data in multiple coding languages and have even demoed Python at a NHS Skills Development Network course. Working from home most of the week and feeling this support through a screen is a real testament to the characters of people I have the joy of working with.
"My age is also something which has shaped my experience. Gen Z receives a lot of criticism"
Since starting my placement, conversations with family and friends have also taken an interesting turn. I was surprised when many would specifically ask me whether the NHS is as “doomed” as it seemed. As a politics student, I’m more than familiar with the ramifications of policy shortcomings and government neglect, so I was also intrigued to see the effects in practice.
My time at the Insights team has thus shaped my response: that there is nothing more reassuring than seeing all these people come together to make the most of what they’ve been given. Truth is, to most people, the NHS is depicted as aged and static, but is in fact a living organism, alive and in constant transformation (You only need to look at all the acronyms, which I have just about got my head around!)
"As dramatic as it sounds, working for the NHS has somewhat restored my faith in humanity."
My age is also something which has shaped my experience. Gen Z receives a lot of criticism, yet the nihilism of my generation is somewhat justified — born only knowing an Internet-driven world, climate crisis doom and a pandemic in our formative years, to name just a few. Community-building in a hyper-individualistic society feels at best case rare. Despite being a university student, community was something which I (like many during the pandemic) had lost but desperately felt its absence.
When my university peers would ask why I was so content with my placement, I realised that this was it. As dramatic as it sounds, working for the NHS has somewhat restored my faith in humanity. Belonging to a larger collective, building and strengthening communities through long term commitments is something I, as a young person, do not see often in our fast-paced consumer society. It is something I am still in awe of and grateful to play a part in.
Perhaps I am too pessimistic. Or perhaps I am too naive — it’s hard to measure my experience when I have nothing to compare it to. However, there’s a particular moment that is engraved in my memory: Looking down the office in Unex Tower, seeing all these people come together to support our healthcare system, every day. I felt lucky to be there. I feel lucky to be here and it is something I will surely miss. Working at the NHS, at the NEL CCG Insights team, has set my expectations (perhaps unfairly) high.
Genevieve Shaw, Founder and Editor-in-chief