When Andrej, 34, first came to the UK, he had only a summer holiday in mind. What started as an opportunity to work whilst improving his English, stemmed into a 14-year career at University Hospitals Sussex, where he expanded his knowledge and skills and was recently appointed a junior rotational physiotherapist.
In 2008, after finishing his A-levels in Slovakia, Andrej, then 19, arrived in England the very next day for his summer holiday. Once the summer season came to an end and his holiday was over, Andrej got a role as a housekeeping assistant at Princess Royal Hospital.
He fondly looks back at this time and jokes: “I would call myself a floor technician.”
“I loved it. It was such an amazing team and at the same time I was able to help the patients and talk to them whilst I worked. I would get to meet lots of nurses and it was satisfying being in an environment where I could help others.”
Whilst working as a housekeeping assistant, Andrej even volunteered at the hospital radio where he had his own talk show called ‘Feel good music with Andrej.’
“As a housekeeping assistant and being in that healthcare environment, I found it quite satisfying being able to help people and wanted to be able to do more.”
As his interest in caring for others grew, by 2011, Andrej became a healthcare assistant (HCA).
Placed on a dementia ward, he admits it was challenging but that he loved it at the same time. He enjoyed listening to patient stories and felt like he could sit and speak to them all day long.
During this time, Andrej completed an apprenticeship in supporting services and his competencies.
Within his role, he became familiar with the physiotherapists who visited his ward to work with patients and admired the way they ‘got things done.’ Soon he started proactively helping them as a HCA and began seeing physiotherapy as a potential future.
By 2014, a position as a Physiotherapy Technical Instructor at Princess Royal came up and Andrej was hungry for it. Successfully getting the job, he was placed on an orthopaedic ward and throughout that time completed other qualifications in health and social care, as well as English and Maths.
Whilst this was a demanding period, he also found it fun to study again and appreciated having a supportive teacher to guide him.
Through this hard work and dedication, Andrej was runner up for Apprentice of the Year as part of Health Education England Awards 2018.
Andrej was eventually promoted to a senior physiotherapy technical instructor; Andrej was keen to progress further and set his sights on becoming a qualified physiotherapist.
Juggling working and going to college in the evening was difficult but Andrej persevered and valued having a supportive team to encourage him.
“It was really hard but thankfully people at work were really supportive and were helping where they could. Then eventually I needed to leave to go to university to train.”
And in 2019, Andrej started his course at the University of Brighton whilst continuing to work as a technician on the bank on evenings, weekends and when the pandemic hit, on these Covid wards too.
After studying for three years, Andrej proudly graduated with a BSc in Physiotherapy in 2022.
“It was hard. I had enjoyed my previous learning over the years, but university was a different level. But I enjoyed it, and I definitely learnt a lot. After that I just thought, I can’t wait to start again with UHSussex.”
With a degree under his belt, newly qualified Andrej successfully became a junior rotational physiotherapist and is now waiting to start his new position where he will gain further experience in the main areas within physiotherapy.
“I’m looking forward to being part of the team again. To meet new faces and see old ones. And helping people to recover quicker. It’s going to be challenging because the NHS is under a lot of pressure, but I feel like I can make a difference.”
“I never thought when I started working as a housekeeping assistant at 19, I’d become a physiotherapist. I never had that in my head.”
Drawing on his years of experience, Andrej can appreciate the role of his fellow colleagues having worked in a variety of positions.
“I can help housekeeping or healthcare assistants if they’re struggling. I was in that position, and I can relate. It makes a big difference.”
Progression doesn’t stop at his career for this former ‘floor technician,’ with Andrej’s personal life transforming too.
“Physios often come from a very active background and playing sports but that wasn’t me when I was growing up. I was never a sports person myself. But now I’m running, I’m exercising, and I joined the gym. This a whole new world for me.”
Today, with 14 years’ service with us, Andrej has worked his way through the career ladder and wouldn’t hesitate recommending UHSussex as a place to work.
He said: “Absolutely. It’s like my big family. I know everyone and feel like a part of the furniture. It’s really nice. I would say to anyone thinking about progressing within the Trust to never stop thinking about trying to gain new skills and move further along in your career.”