The ten year itch?


I stayed for ten years in my last job, so should my boss be worried that today is my tenth anniversary with the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT)? Have I got itchy feet? No, I have not (no need to worry Rob).

The secret to my contentment has been in finding the right combination of two parallel careers – having discovered many years ago that working full time in one post does not suit me. There are many part-time workers in the NHS and I have been fortunate enough to work part time for all my 23 years in NHS clinical audit. Which has freed me up to regularly exchange my clinical audit hat for at least one other type of headgear. I am beginning to sound like The Cat in the Hat!

For well over a decade my parallel career was in scientific publishing: writing abstracts, proof reading, copy-editing, indexing, and so on. This was a reasonably interesting combination for me, but not quite perfect. Then in 2005 two things happened: my son inspired me to re-visit creative writing; and I started work at a mental health and learning disabilities Trust (the CPFT). Those two steps set me on a writing ramble that has lasted ten years so far.

When I started writing for pleasure again I discovered, as many before me have, that writing is good for you. So I began reading about therapeutic writing, did some training, joined Lapidus, and started to wonder whether I might be able to do some writing work in our mental health wards. My therapeutic writing career breakthrough came in 2009 when I saw a poster for the CPFT’s very own Dragons Den. I bid for and won funding to lead a “Year of Writing” project. And as part of the “Year of Writing” I started my first weekly writing group in a psychiatric ward.

My combination career is now made up of a part-time, permanent post in clinical audit, and sessionally paid work leading weekly therapeutic writing groups in four psychiatric wards. A combination career may not be for everyone, but it has worked for me for more than twenty years. It is definitely a good option to consider if you feel the need to retain financial security, but at the same time yearn to pursue a new career in an intellectually stimulating (but notoriously low paid) field such as writing.

For those who are interested here are some milestones of the last ten years:

2005            started writing fiction and poetry again (after twenty five years)
2005            joined CPFT
2007-08        Introduction to Counselling Certificate
2008            Introduction to Mindfulness training
2009            achieved Certificate in Creative Writing (Lancaster University)
2009            two poems published in “Pinhole Camera 3” (University of Cumbria)
2009-10        in-house Psychological Skills training (levels one and two)
2009            led my first writing workshop
2010-11        led the CPFT “Year of Writing” project
2010            started therapeutic writing in a mental health ward
2011            organized the “Writing in Healthcare Conference”
2011            started this blog
2011            started weekly therapeutic writing group in Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit
2011            Ty Newydd Writing in Health and Social Care course
2012            published the “Words for Wellbeing” book
2012            started weekly therapeutic writing group in 3rd mental health unit
2013            won a prize in the poetry installation “Beneath the Boughs”
2013            joined the STyLUS project team
2014            story published online by “Page and Spine”
2014            commissioned to write a chapter in a forthcoming expressive writing book
2015            started weekly therapeutic writing group in 4th mental health unit


About Carol Ross

Interested in therapeutic writing.
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5 Responses to The ten year itch?

  1. Nicky says:

    Hi Carol,

    I am late in finding your blog but have found it so interesting! You are so inspiring with how you have forged your own path pulling your hobbies and passions into your working week. I am an English Teacher currently working with children who are out of education for a variety of reasons. I am so interested in therapeutic writing and possibly running a course in my local schools. Do you have any tips or any recommended training? Thank you!

    • Carol Ross says:

      Hi Nicky

      I’m so pleased you like the blog … thanks. I’ll give some thought to your question and email you if you don’t mind. What ages of school pupils were you thinking of?

      Best wishes, Carol.

  2. I started out as an English teacher, subsequently re-trained as a counsellor (& MBTI practitioner) Running my private counselling practice and writing worked as combination career for over a decade, but now they also work as connection career through teaching and practice of therapeutic writing. Such careers can be more complicate to manage but they are stimulating and rewarding. And, as I often reflect, they give a perspective on each field of work that it may not have on itself.

  3. sarahecarr29 says:

    Thanks for this post, Carol – spotted through Lapidus page on Facebook. I found it very interesting (and encouraging) reading. I used to work full-time in NHS management, but have found a combination of roles suits me better too (as well as making it easier for me to look after younger and older generations when need be). I now work part-time as an academic editor (freelance), volunteer as a holistic therapist, and am training as a counsellor. I am inspired by the idea that I could aim to make the therapies/counselling into paid work alongside my (nice and steady) editing work.

    • Carol Ross says:

      I’m so pleased to have inspired you! I feel sure you will succeed in your combination career and it certainly sounds like a great combination to me.

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