I turned down university place to work in a mortuary - and I Iove my job

·3-min read
Milina Caley
Milina Caley

During the height of the pandemic, aspiring professional make up artist Milina Caley made a drastic career change when she turned down university and opted to join a local North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s mortuary team.

At 18-years-old Milina was in her final months of college, working part-time as a receptionist in a beauty salon and had been offered a place at university to study make up for production. But when lockdown closed the beauty salon, she found herself looking for a temporary job and unknowingly set herself on the path to a new dream career.

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Milina, now 21 and a Stockton resident, said: “When the beauty salon closed, I was looking for jobs in supermarkets – but then my mum mentioned that they were looking for people to work in the mortuary at North Tees hospital, where she works in pathology.

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“I’d never even thought about working in a mortuary. But then, here I was, applying for a job as a mortuary assistant.

“I was very nervous when I started but as I kept working, I just really enjoyed it – it had a lot of purpose to it.”

The Northern Echo: Milina and her certificate
The Northern Echo: Milina and her certificate

Milina and her certificate (Image: Press release)

Milina realised she had found her passion and, when lockdown restrictions were lifted, she decided to turn down her place at university and instead opted to remain a member of the mortuary team at the Trust.

She continued: “I absolutely love my job. Working in a mortuary – it’s not the first thing that comes to mind but it’s something I’m incredibly proud of.

“It’s where patients are at their most vulnerable. And it’s so important to me that we deliver the best care possible so we treat patients as if they’re our own family or friend. That’s why we’re here – to make sure patients are looked after and treated well.”

In November 2021, Milina made the move from a mortuary assistant and set herself on a new path as a trainee anatomical pathology technologist. Her new role involves much of the same care to patients and their loved ones as a mortuary assistant, but she now also assists in post mortems to learn more about patients’ cause of death.

She has now proudly completed her Level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Science (Anatomical Pathology Technology) and has already started her level 4. North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is currently the only centre nationally to run these diplomas.

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Milina said: “My level 3 was very hard work – a lot of time and effort was put into it but it’s so worth it to me. There’d be days where I’d spend the morning assisting in post-mortems and then the afternoon would be spent in the library studying.

“I’ve already started my level 4 now. I didn’t want to stop so I’ve gone for it – I had two months off from studying and just went right back to it.”

Senior anatomical pathology technologist Neil Wdowikowski is supporting Milina in her ambitions and has been there for her every step of the way. He said: “What I will say about Milina is that she’s one of the most committed and motivated trainees I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. She seeks knowledge out – she has such a good ethic and this really drives her excellence.”