Trainee nursing apprentices have praised the course for opening up a career that may otherwise have been out of reach, as the country celebrates the 73rd anniversary of the NHS.
The registered nurse degree apprentices state that the course supports them to train without financial worry and their ‘status’ maximises learning potential.
The trainees, who many of whom work at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay (UHMBT) NHS FT, are trailblazers on the innovative apprenticeship, which was the first of its kind in the country launched in 2018.
The first cohort is due to graduate February 2022 and some of the trainees are entering their final placements over Summer.
Kasia Serwin, 41 from Heysham, originally Poland, initially trained as architect drawer but had to retire when she moved to the UK due to the language barrier. As she learnt English it opened the door to her becoming a domestic assistant at University Hospital of Morecambe Bay in Lancaster. As her language skills improved, she became a clinical support worker, then maternity assistant.
After 13 years working in the hospital, she found she enjoyed working with people and providing care but at the same time she wanted to help people more than her roles would allow.
She said: “after finishing all the courses available to clinical support workers I felt I wanted more so applied for the apprenticeship.
“I wanted to do a three-year university course to become a registered nurse, but it was not possible for me financially as a mother of two teenagers and a mortgage to pay. The apprenticeship programme gave me the freedom to fulfil my dream career without worrying about finances.”
Dominic Kenyon, 30, from Burnley, was registered nursing associate before embarking on the apprenticeship specialising in learning disability nursing.
As a nursing associate he saw huge gaps in support for people with learning disabilities and how often there is not sufficient support in mainstream services. This spurred Dominic to ‘create better support for individuals who often don’t have the same experience as other people.’
He said: “my plan has always been to train to become a nurse. The placement and work experience on this course has been great. We are supernumerary so that gives us more opportunities to learn.”
Joedie Brandwood, 31 from Lancaster chose the apprenticeship due to its practical nature. She said: “being a clinical support worker previously, I thoroughly enjoyed the practical elements of nursing so this apprenticeship seemed a natural progression as I could underpin the theoretical background to the working ethos of nursing.”
“I am from a research background and wish to become a research nurse. I was a clinical support worker for ten years prior to commencing the apprenticeship and this route will combine my previous achievements with a job that I love!”
The University of Cumbria works in partnership with UHMBT and other NHS, private and voluntary organisations to deliver the apprentice programme. It is a four-year course currently open to existing staff at the NHS trust and other private health care providers, such as care homes.
Registered nurse degree apprentices divide their time between academic study with the University of Cumbria, practice learning in addition to the workforce and supporting their employer by working within the workforce numbers.
As people come together to celebrate the 73rd birthday of the NHS, Ann Hollings-Tennant Programme Leader for Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship Programme applauds the programme’s success to date.
She said: “The idea grew out of the need to meet demand for trained nurses in a geographical area that has traditionally found recruitment and retention of staff a struggle. This approach means that employers have steady stream of trained staff on tap while providing their employees with valuable professional development.”
“The first cohort of 30 apprentices will graduate next spring and will immediately take up roles within the trust and elsewhere.”
Sue Smith, Executive Chief Nurse and Deputy Chief Executive, UHMBT, said: "We championed the apprenticeship approach and are pleased and proud that the University of Cumbria saw the value in taking it forward. It has been a vital part of our recruitment strategy - and our current nurse vacancy rate is now at its lowest ever level of 2.2%."
Michelle Armistead, Practice Education Facilitator, at UHMBT, added: “My team support staff to provide high quality placements for all learners.
“We welcome learners from all pathways and professions into the trust. We are excited that the nursing apprenticeship course will be running again in August with plans for future cohorts in the new year and beyond.
“We are looking forward to seeing our current apprentices graduate in February 2022 and embark on their nursing career with us.”
The programme helps to support the Government’s target of recruiting and retaining 50,000 nurses.
To find out more about the course visit https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/business/apprenticeships/courses/adult-nursing-apprenticeship