Alumnus talks about his nursing career journey

Nursing and Mental Health Nursing graduate, Craig Harris, talks about his path from UCLan to a senior role in the NHS.

After studying dance and drama at college, Craig took a year out and decided to change his career choice. As an aspiring actor who loved the TV show ‘Casualty’, he applied to study a DipHE Mental Health Nursing at the University of Central Lancashire. After graduating in 2000, he knew that nursing would be his fully committed career and stayed on to study a full nursing degree. His first job after graduating in 2002 as a Staff Nurse on an extreme behaviour unit was challenging, but he still found the time to stay on at the University as a part-time Faculty Officer for students.

Craig’s had a varied and very successful career. His skills and experience are impressive, including mental health nursing in an acute setting, specialising in perinatal care, working in female forensics and clinical management, Head of Mental Health for Manchester, Associate Director and Director of Joint Commissioning, and a secondment as GM Strategic Director of Offender Health. The list continues. He said: “Finally, before my current role, I spent eight years as Executive Nurse, Director of Safeguarding and Strategic Director of Commissioning in Manchester.” Today, he’s the Accountable Officer and Managing Director of NHS Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group.

His time at UCLan might seem like a while ago now, but Craig still has fond memories. He said: "The Preston social scene, as lively then as it is today, included “the ‘Burn Baby Burn’ night we organised for all students and a fashion celebration of nursing across the decades, the RCN congresses I attended, as well as the opportunities afforded to me by the Dean."

"Observing, participating and leading on specific nursing related topics and issues at UCLan helped shape my style and approach to future roles. This prepared me for job opportunities that I may never have ever considered."

Craig Harris, DipHe Mental Health Nursing and BSc (Hons) Nursing graduate

Over his career, Craig has won many awards, including the Pride Attitude Award in 2015 and Charity Chair of the Year (North West) 2018. He said: “I’m the Chair of Survivors Manchester, an internationally recognised charity for male survivors of abuse. I’m presiding Justice in Greater Manchester and I’m a Nurse, Accountable Officer and Professor in the NHS and Academic Sector. I’m also a Managing Director of a family business but my greatest achievement since graduation has been adopting my son at one, who is now almost 12, and watching him grow and develop into a lovely young man.”

What advice would Craig give to anyone thinking of nursing as a career? “Find your people – like-minded, who will support and challenge you! Be patient but determined” he said. “Take risks and step outside your comfort zone at least once in your career. Nursing is tough, take an umbrella to weather the storm but remember it always passes. Enjoy, smile, have fun and be kind. And maybe follow my mantra – life is limited, our future is unlimited, so be a limited edition.”

Craig Harris, Accountable Officer and Managing Director, NHS Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group
Craig Harris, Accountable Officer and Managing Director, NHS Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group