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4 June 2024

A Blog about the Heroes among Us

As Armed Forces Day approaches on Saturday, June 29th, 2024, we believe it's an ideal time to highlight our support for the military community as an employer.

We recently reached out to our entire workforce, encouraging former military personnel to share their experiences of transitioning from military to civilian life and their current roles at Cygnet. The individuals who came forward hold diverse positions in our OT, HR, Finance, and H&S departments, demonstrating the wide range of career opportunities at Cygnet and the valuable transferable skills that military personnel bring to our organisation. Read on and enjoy the stories of Emma, Mark, Ross & Jo – just 4 of the heroes among us… 

Emma’s an Occupational Therapy Assistant based at Cygnet Appletree in Durham and she’s currently on Cygnet’s Apprentice OT pathway. 

Aged 16, Emma left school and joined Army Foundation College where she began a 6-year career as a Plumber in the Royal Engineers (part of the British Army) and completed a tour of Afghanistan in 2009.

Emma Cygnet Armed Forces

On leaving the Army, Emma knew she wanted to work in healthcare and wanted to be an A&E Nurse. Emma completed her adult Maths & English qualifications through the Army Transition Programme and then began a health and social care course.

‘’I began looking for jobs and was lucky enough to be accepted as a Bank Support Worker at Cygnet Appletree which was then a long-stay rehabilitation unit and later, a  female acute and PICU. I picked up 5 shifts a week and loved working in the environment. I had to learn new skills such as hospital policies, how to manage risk, and how to complete observations but I found that the skills I’d developed in the army helped me transition with ease.’’

Dealing with high-pressure situations in a calm, collective manner, working to tight deadlines, and utilising the strong communication skills that Emma developed during her time serving in the Army within the UK and overseas make Emma an all-around excellent team player.

After 5 years as a Support Worker, Emma moved into the Occupational Therapy department at Appletree, and found her true passion! She was able to transfer even more skills learned in the Army, including; adaptability, resilience, collaboration, problem-solving, and creative and critical thinking.

‘’Working in mental health was something that had never crossed my mind but IT IS the best thing I ever did and now I’m training to become an Occupational Therapist.’’

Mark Cygnet Army

In 1999, Mark joined the British Army and served for 22 years, reaching the rank of Warrant Officer Class Two.

Throughout his military career, Mark was deployed to various locations including Bosnia, Iraq, Poland, Cyprus, and Morocco. His final role in the Army was as a Regimental Administration Warrant Officer, which involved responsibilities such as; line management, HR, appraisal writing, payroll, auditing, data security, and other financial transactions.

After leaving the armed forces, Mark pursued a career in Payroll & Accounting. He initially worked as a Bookkeeper and obtained his AAT qualification. However, he found that bookkeeping did not provide a sense of achievement or allow him to fully utilise his acquired skills. After 18 months in this role, Mark interviewed for a Funding & Payroll Administrator position at Cygnet.

‘’ …joining Cygnet has allowed me to showcase skills I obtained within the Military such as hard work, proactivity, robustness, prioritising, team-working, problem-solving, and attention to detail.  I take great pride in my work and each day I now gain a sense of achievement.’’

The military recognises hard work and rewards its staff. Mark was awarded a commendation for his dedicated and exemplary service. Cygnet also recognises the hard work of its employees. As Mark said,

‘’Whilst at Cygnet my hard work has been recognised and I have been awarded “Employee of the month”

The military has the core values of courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty, and selfless commitment, Mark continues to uphold these values and brings them with him to Cygnet. Here Mark synergizes with Cygnet’s values of integrity, trust, empowerment, respect, care, and working together.

‘’I am so pleased that I accepted the job offer for my role within Cygnet, I look forward to coming into work every day, as I work with people who make me smile.’’

Mark Military Uniform

Ross served in the Royal Air Force Fire and Rescue Service for 22 years, from 1991 to 2013. His career in the RAF took him worldwide; from Afghanistan to San Diego, to the Falklands and Canada.

Attaining the rank of Sergeant, Ross, unfortunately, suffered a life-changing injury which ultimately led to a medical discharge. But, in his final years and during the Resettlement period, Ross served as RAF Waddington’s Fire Safety Officer, gaining civilian-recognised fire safety qualifications through NEBOSH and Fire & Engineer professional accreditations with the Institute of Fire Prevention Officers and the Institute of Fire Engineers.

Ross Military

With a passion for all things fire safety truly ignited, Ross began his civilian career as a Fire Safety Manager for a large retail company. Finding the transition to Civvy Street relatively easy, Ross says it’s mainly thanks to his strong work ethic and his ‘can do’ attitude installed in him by the military that has allowed for this ease of transition. 

‘’I found the transition to civilian life relatively easy thanks to the work ethic and ‘can do’ outlook instilled by the military from the first day of training to my final day in uniform.’’ 

After several years in retail-based fire safety, Ross spotted the position of Fire Safety Manager here at Cygnet. Ross believed that working in a healthcare setting would provide him with the fresh challenge he was looking for. 

‘’I arrived at St Augustine’s for my first day as Cygnet’s new Fire Safety Manager, and I haven’t looked back since.’’ 

Embedded within a dedicated team of health and safety professionals, Ross admits that his learning curve was steep but enjoyable, with no two days being the same. He especially enjoys the mix of working from home and visiting Cygnet sites around the UK, as it fits perfectly with his lifestyle. Each Cygnet site has its specific fire safety issues that require a custom-designed approach. Ross’s mantra is always ‘Improvise, adapt, and overcome’, a phrase he adopted from his time in the RAF, and one that he applies to his current role. He plans to continue doing so as Cygnet grows into one of the UK’s largest care providers in the private sector.

Jo served for 6 years in the British Army from 2012 to 2018, and during that time was posted to Germany for 2 years followed by a tour of Afghanistan, before returning to the UK.  

The transition from the Army to civilian life is never an easy one, says Jo. 

‘’when I made the decision to leave, I wanted to be part of an organisation that made a difference. ‘’

Jo currently works in Cygnet’s Central Function team as an HR Business Partner.  In her role, she supports several sites with any employment-related issues and also helps manage activities such as training and development, retention, and performance management. 

Jo was able to transfer her certifications and qualifications in Leadership and Management, Education and Training, and complete her CIPD Level 5 diploma in HR Management.  

‘’My time in the forces helped me develop as an individual and I was able to use the skills that I learned, such as making assertive decisions under time constraints, being able to communicate with different stakeholders, and adapt to different environments. ‘’

Although Jo initially missed the camaraderie when she left the Army, she says that she was welcomed into the Cygnet family by a caring and understanding team and she’s since made strong bonds with colleagues.  


‘’ I can honestly say I am proud to be part of a company that champions mental health and wellbeing ‘’

Cygnet is dedicated to supporting veterans, reservists, and their families through our recruitment initiatives and networks. We recognise the transferable skills of ex-military personnel and aim to provide them with the necessary support if they choose to join one of our teams.

We are an organisation where ex-military personnel can truly thrive. The workplace culture is similar to the military, creating a familiar and positive atmosphere. It’s a place where you can make a real difference and build lasting friendships with colleagues and service users alike by joining the Cygnet family. 

Cygnet has been a Bronze Award holder and signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant since 2021. Our recruitment initiatives are designed to be forces-friendly, and we encourage applications from reservists, veterans, and military spouses and partners. We are proud to sit alongside the 8,000+ other organisations who have signed the Covenant, including over 600 other healthcare providers.

We now want to work towards our Silver Award by resurrecting our Veterans Network and re-appointing a Cygnet Armed Forces Champion. We also wish to make sure any new ex-forces staff are well supported here at Cygnet as they transition into their work and civilian life. Our network will give them a chance to speak with others with similar experiences and perspectives, sharing the challenges that others may not face.

We understand and value the unique skills of ex-military personnel, which are highly transferable to the healthcare sector. We recognise the importance of discerning these qualities from a candidate’s CV and are committed to supporting and recognising the talent of ex-armed forces personnel in our recruitment drives. We also respect and support reservists who already work with us.

We also prioritise staff support, especially for ex-military personnel, and we have national leads in TRiM (Trauma Risk Management) and StRaW (Sustaining Resilience at Work) – two strategies that support staff well-being. TRiM offers peer support and intervention after traumatic incidents, while StRaW prevents burnout and compassion fatigue in high-pressure jobs. Both strategies aim to detect mental health risks early and intervene with appropriate measures, providing crucial support for our staff, especially veterans.

If any ex-military personnel are interested in joining Cygnet and entering the mental healthcare profession, we encourage you to visit us to see how we operate. Our ethos and values are a great match with yours. Working in mental health can be challenging but fulfilling, with excellent support available. 

If you care about making a difference, we have opportunities for service leavers, reservists, veterans, and their families. Apply now for a satisfying, meaningful career.

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