Meet SIA’s First Ever Intern Abigail Foster

In January 2017 SIA launched its first ever internship and started the recruitment process. The idea was to give either a graduate or someone considering a career change first – class experience in a national charity working alongside our Public Affairs team and Chief Executive Officer. The post was for four months and gave Abigail a comprehensive insight into the work that we do at the SIA. Read on to hear Abigail’s thoughts on her internship journey!

“Throughout my Sociology degree at the University of Warwick I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career after university, like most students! Ideas and advice are thrust at you from every angle in careers talks and with a huge range of opportunities, the decision is far from easy. Despite that being an exciting prospect, it is also a daunting one when graduation is fast approaching. So I started to think about the things I enjoyed and what kind of job I would suit. From a young age I have known I wanted a job that helped others in some capacity; I wanted to make an impact on people’s lives, I just didn’t know how yet.

In the second year of my degree, I studied the sociology of health and medicine. The module explored how we as lay people define and practice health and the social and psychological impact it has on our sense of self when this is compromised. We questioned the meaning and experience of chronic illness and disability, contemporary health inequalities and the changing power relationship between patients and medical professionals. It was from this that I identified the health and medical sphere as an area of interest.

Fast forward to graduation and some well-deserved post-graduation travel, I found myself in an interview for the first ever internship position at SIA. After I had identified that the charity sector was a good fit for my goals, I applied for the internship. I volunteered in the office two weeks prior to the start of the internship, so I had already started to get an insight into the work SIA do and get a feel for things. As early as interview, it was clear to me the level of flexibility that SIA were offering to make sure the internship was the right fit for me in terms of work and what I wanted to learn as well as flexible work hours. From the outset I have been given rewarding and challenging projects. I been able to apply my skills and knowledge from my degree directly to the projects I have been working on. These included producing a report from survey data collected on the care policies currently in place across NHS Trusts in England. This research will be taken to NHS England to support and evidence campaigns for the improvement of bladder and bowel care in the NHS. Alongside this, I have also worked on another survey report on the fairness of compensation and clinical negligence legal claims. This report was initially produced for the Chief Executive to use at a panel discussion but then encouraged a great deal of interest from the legal profession. The findings of this research were published in an article for the Law Society Gazette and presented at subsequent conferences which I attended. Further to this, I have been involved in drafting copy for communications, writing applications for honorary awards and writing articles for Forward. Recently, I have begun supporting the care cuts campaign with a report on NHS spending on Continuing Healthcare packages.

During the four months I have spent with SIA I have been given the opportunity to learn a great deal about my strengths and weaknesses, what I enjoy and where I would like my career to go from here. SIA have provided a supportive and encouraging environment to fulfil my potential and gain beneficial experience and knowledge of the charity sector. As a recent graduate, these things could not be more important in such a competitive job market. The responsibility I have been given and the opportunity to demonstrate my skills have led to some great achievements that have kick-started my career. One of the things I have loved most about the internship is the diversity of what I could be involved in. One day I could be researching the ins and outs (literally) of bowel care and the next I could be sat in a conference surrounded by senior medical and legal professionals discussing a variety of issues.

“This only reflects the impressive scope of impact SIA have”

Last month I took a trip to Paris where I stumbled across a group of spinal cord injured people playing basketball for their bid to host the Olympics in 2024. Watching them play, I saw everything SIA work for in action; the chance for spinal cord injured to live fulfilling lives after their injury. I stood watching them, quietly proud in the knowledge that I have been apart of work that could benefit their life – or the 40,000 others like them. Only half way through the internship I was fortunate enough to have been offered a short-term contract as a Campaigns Officer with the SIA where I look forward to continuing this work.”

Interested? We are currently recruiting for out next SIA intern, interested to find out more get in touch with Jen Sims HR and Volunteer Coordinator on 01908 604191 or [email protected]