The first students to complete a pioneering university-level apprenticeship to qualify as registered nurses are celebrating their graduations.
As part of the drive to address the national shortage for nurses, the University of Cumbria and the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust co-designed the four-year Registered Nursing Degree Apprenticeship that was the first course of its kind in the country when it was launched in 2018.
Now the newly qualified nurses have been among the 800-plus University of Cumbria graduands to converge on Carlisle Cathedral for graduation ceremonies.
Among them is Cherish Otoo, who received two additional prizes upon graduation.
She was named Most Inspirational Student by the university’s Institute of Health and Cherish was also the recipient of the university’s Spirit of Cumbria award. This is given by the university to those current graduands who exemplify its values in being Progressive, Personal and Engaged and who are exceptional role models.
The awards cap a terrific year for single parent Cherish, who lives in Morecambe with her two daughters.
After completing the nursing apprenticeship and becoming a registered nurse earlier this year, Cherish won two national Student Nursing Times Awards in May.
The ‘Most Inspirational Student of the Year’ honour and ‘the Mary Seacole Award for Inclusion and Diversity’ were given in recognition of the work Cherish does with her employer UHMBT to support colleagues from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Drawing on her own lived experience, Cherish plays an integral role in the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust’s Black and Minority Ethic Staff Network, specifically as part of its Anti-Racism Influencers Group. She has also had an invitation to join the trust’s Women in Leadership network.
Cherish is also an ambassador for One Woman At A Time, a charity that is dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls in parts of Kenya, India and the UK who are severely disadvantaged by social or economic circumstances.
Cherish said: “I’m thrilled to be graduating, and it feels long-awaited due to the pandemic, but I’m very excited to be sharing it with my family and these awards make it all extra special for me.
“I have always promoted the good, the bad and the ugly of nursing and time at university. I hope it inspires more like-minded people who think they may not be able to do nursing or an apprenticeship that it is out there, it is possible, and that Cumbria is the place to do it.”
Alison Hampson, director of the Institute of Health, University of Cumbria, said: “We are proud to play a crucial role in educating and supporting future frontline professionals, helping to deliver higher-level skills for our region and beyond.
“Our relationship with the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust is an example of the impactful collaborations we have across our university with employers. Together we co-design innovative and applied learning options such as the apprenticeships in nursing and our new midwifery programme that begins in September.
“These collaborations help us in our mission to inspire and equip our students and graduates, enabling communities to thrive and contributing towards future growth and prosperity.”
If this inspires you, the university’s Institute of Health is running a summer school for those interested in nursing or occupational therapy.
The free programme is suitable for those who wish to return to study following a break, or those working within the health and social care sector yet may be unsure if they have the right qualifications or experience to embark on a university course.
Pictured (left-right): Registered Nurse Degree Apprentices Alice Davies, Cherish Otoo, Helen Fawcett, Joanne Callister, Hannah Faragher and Leah Baldwin (Photograph: Jonathan Becker)