Changing roles and navigating transitions – the jump from clinical Allied Health Professional (AHP) to Practice Education Lead (PEL)

By Ann-marie Anderson and Wendy Chambers

AHP Practice Education Leads (PELs) have unique roles within each Board which are funded by NHS Education for Scotland (NES). PELs support, develop, deliver and promote learning opportunities which use a range of formats and media. In addition they play a key role in developing and enhancing positive learning environments for all AHPs, including students, within the workplace across sectors. They enable AHPs to engage in continuing professional development and consider what their career development could look like to ensure the people of Scotland continue to receive high quality and effective practice.

B1Wendy Chambers – NHS Dumfries and Galloway  []

My clinical background as an AHP is occupational therapy. Over 20 plus years I have worked in various clinical settings across health and social care in both the UK and Canada, most recently in community mental health.

I have therefore gained, developed and gathered a broad and diverse skill set and would have described myself as adaptable to changing my role

Wendy and Ann-marie are new to these roles and thought they would share their experiences of moving from a clinical to an educational role.

The AHP PEL post offered me an opportunity to consider service development and improvement from a different perspective; focusing on enabling and ensuring we have a skilled workforce, fit for purpose, to deliver within a changing and challenging health and social care climate.

I always enjoy a challenge.

A new world –

B2Entering into an education role as opposed to a clinical role is proving to be an interesting transition. On reflection over the past 6 months we would liken it most to the analogy of arriving in a foreign country, where we don’t have a map, we don’t speak the language and we don’t know anyone else who lives there.

A new language –

In order to navigate any new role and job it’s essential to gain clarity and understanding about the job/role expectations.

This is complicated though when you move into an area which in essence “speaks a different language”. Ann-marie and I are clinicians; we understand clinical language, acronyms, priorities, environments; our new role has required us to learn a new language, readjust our perspective and understand our currency of “education”.

B3The success and speed of any fundamental transition relies on people, relationships and connections. When we landed in the foreign country we needed to communicate somehow to locate a map, find places to live/eat, navigate our way round to ultimately survive and enjoy it.

Our journeys as new AHP PELs have been made easier and smoother by the relationships, connections and people we’ve met. They’ve taught us a new language, set us off in the right directions and invited us into their world.

B4Ann-marie Anderson, – NHS Ayrshire and Arran

Like Wendy, I entered AHP Practice Education with a mainly clinical background.  I have worked as a Speech and Language Therapist for NHS Ayrshire and Arran for the past 18 years.  When the seconded post of AHP PEL arose, I thought it would be a good way to combine my interest in education with increasing my knowledge of AHP education and the wider world of AHPs.

Tour Guides: Networking

AHP PELs are a small resource.  Wendy and I are both part time in our posts and the only PELs in our respective boards.  We have had to proactively network both within our boards and with our colleagues at NES to find our support network.

We have gone from feeling we had a level of expertise in our clinical roles, to that of novices, finding our feet.  We both feel very fortunate that, within our respective boards and NES, people have been willing to give up their valuable time to meet with us, respond to queries via phone and email, allowing us to transition all the more easily into our new roles.


Transitioning to a new role: old skills, new skills and locating resources

As we have become more familiar with our roles, we have found that we already possessed a lot of the required skills.  The four pillars of practice required to practice as a clinician: Clinical skills, Facilitating learning, Leadership, Evidence, research and development are equally relevant in our new posts but the emphasis on clinical is reduced and the other three pillars have increased.   We have used the pillars to consider our own development needs and identify CPD requirements for this post, particularly around the leadership pillar (personal reading, NES workshops, locally provided courses), the evidence, research and development pillar (e-learning modules on quality improvement and locally provided quality improvement training) and facilitating learning (train the trainer’s development programme, shadowing).

For anyone not yet familiar with pillars of practice check the new CPD e-learning module and animation which explains this in more detail. The link also takes you to the other e-learning module mentioned below.


Our existing knowledge around support and resources offered by NES has increased considerably. If you are not familiar with any of these, then they are worth a look!


Flying onwards: new skills to take with me on my ongoing journey

a final thought from Ann-marie:

It has, undoubtedly, been a good thing to step outside my comfort zone and try something new.

I feel I now have a better appreciation of AHP roles and a greater knowledge of the processes and resources available in education.   I will return to my clinical role armed with my new skills and knowledge, ready for the next challenge!






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