How to become a care navigator
Explore the different ways to get into this role.
You can get into this job through:
- a college course
- an apprenticeship
- working towards this role
You could do a college course, which may help you when looking for work. Courses include:
- level 2 Diploma In Preparing for Further Study in Health, Social Care and Social Work
- level 2 Diploma in Health and Social Care
- level 3 National Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care
- T Level in Health
Most health and social care courses include work placements which is a good way to get experience.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths for a T level
A day in the life of Care Navigator
What is it like to work in a non-clinical role in the NHS? We have a few questions to ask: what is it really like being a care navigator? How did you, at the age of 17 or 18, decide what you wanted to do? And were there any challenges that you had to overcome?
How did you become a care navigator?
I’ve worked in Hiyos as a care navigator for five years now. I started off as an apprentice back in 2017 and I liked it so much. I’m still here like five years later.
What does a care navigator do?
We do a mix of different things. Working as a care navigator is a bit different to your normal GP receptionist. There are people who think GP receptionists are rude, refusing patients their appointments! It’s not true. We have a huge role here. We do the referrals for our GP’s and we’re in charge of safety netting for council referrals which is ensuring that patients are followed up within a certain amount of time.
There are 3 different three different levels of referrals. For two week waits it could be something quite concerning that the clinicians found. So we have to send it to the hospital and it’s expected for the patients to be seen in two weeks. Its part of my job to ensure that the patient is seen or at least they have an appointment. So we have a system for that and we need to ensure that we keep track of it.
We do a lot of different things including taking calls, filing letters and help clinicians with any kind of queries. We act like the right hand of the doctor doctors as one said to me the other day. It’s about working together as a team to help generate the best level of care and I think it’s an amazing job.
Does the job get stressful?
You are speaking to people and you do have an impact on their lives. When you speak to people you can make or break their day by telling them certain things so there is that added responsibility that you wouldn’t get in other admin roles. Its just about learning how best to help people whilst helping the clinicians.
I think this daily pressure is in any job. It does kind of depend on the day. For example Mondays tend to be the worst days of the week. People seem to generate health issues over the weekend and then they call in on Mondays.
I think genuinely my biggest struggle, when I started, was learning how not to take things home with me. I struggled not to bring the problems of other people home and it took me a while to realise that it will all be there the next day. We all need to be able to enjoy our spare time away from work for our own mental health. But when you see something that resonates with you it can get really hard.
Remembering to separate yourself as much as you can in that moment and not think personally about it. What helps is being able to talk to each other, having support available and having little breaks. When you have a team around you it helps to know that you’re not the only person in the whole of the NHS for that patient and we all work together.
How does the apprenticeship work and why did you choose to do one?
When I think about it, it was very much different five years ago. I had no idea what I was doing with my life like many teenagers. I didn’t really get the best grades and I had the feeling I wouldn’t get into university. Even though I did get into university, it just wasn’t for me at that point and I didn’t really know what to do. I did my qualifications in computer science and I didn’t enjoy it. I just thought let’s try something for a year and earn some money but I enjoyed it so I’m still here 5 years later.
Apprenticeships are good because there’s different levels. The highest level is a degree apprenticeship where you can find a job that will pay for your degree, whilst paying for you to work for them which is a pretty great deal. Doing an apprenticeship will save you from any student loan debt or fees and you actually get paid to do the apprenticeship.
At the time there was a lot of stigma around apprenticeships. There was a big thing in school where everyone wants to go to uni and it felt like if you don’t go to university then you’ve you failed. Even if you do an apprenticeship, they will kind of look at you a little differently and I don’t understand that. The fact is there’s still a lot of work to do around it. You get the qualification and you’re getting job experience. People want job experience just as much, if not more, than degrees. So at the end of the day an apprenticeship can offer so much more valuable life skills.
What are the entry requirements for apprenticeships?
It varies based on the apprenticeship. The higher levels will require high GCSE grades but English and Maths are the ones most commonly required. I do know that some apprenticeships will also pay for you to resit English and Maths if necessary.