What is it about?

Leaving the military involves an adjustment to civilian employment that may be turbulent at times. As an military veteran and health professional, I used my position as an insider researcher to understand the experience of leaving the military and becoming a veteran. I focused on the move from military to civilian employment. I noticed that people reached a tipping point for deciding to leave, but that this was followed by a triple whammy of uncertainty about leaving, insecurity in the new job, and loss of identity. The study finishes with recommendations about how veterans prepare for a midlife career change, retention of personnel within military forces, and how civilian employers support veterans.

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Why is it important?

This study explores military healthcare professionals’ experiences of midlife career change from active service to veteran. This was the first time that the Transtheoretical Model for Change had been applied to mid-life career change in military personnel. The findings contribute new insights into how modern armed forces and civilian healthcare services can both retain their personnel and support them to transition to civilian employment. This is important to military services because replacing personnel who leave early involves significant recruitment and training costs. It is also important to civilian services because of concerns about healthcare staff retention, and the capacity to meet future healthcare needs.


This study reports an insider research project using a heuristic inquiry methodology. It is a highly reflexive, and deeply personal narrative. This means it offers a unique and 'in the moment' perspective on midlife career transition. I am forever in debt to my fellow veterans who contributed to the findings and the generation of new knowledge. At the outset, I did not expect the transition experience to be as I experienced it or to discover what I held in common with other veterans. What is clear to me is that my values began to diverge from the military culture as I reached a tipping point for leaving, I then faced a triple whammy of uncertainty, job insecurity and loss of identity before beginning to adjust to civilian life.

Dean Whybrow
Cardiff University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Military healthcare professionals’ experience of transitioning into civilian employment: A heuristic inquiry, Work, October 2023, IOS Press,
DOI: 10.3233/wor-220317.
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