Unlocking Nursing potential with Degree Apprenticeships

With a commitment to upskilling staff, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust partnered with the University of Central Lancashire to train Registered Nurse Degree Apprentices (RNDAs).

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust is one of Europe’s biggest and busiest children’s hospitals, treating everything from common illnesses to highly complex and specialist conditions. The Trust based in Liverpool employs over 1,200 nurses and currently has 16 Registered Nurse Degree Apprentices (RNDAs) studying with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

The Trust first contacted UCLan following the Government’s 2019 commitment to increase the number of registered nurses by 50,000. Having previously worked with other training suppliers, the Trust decided to look further afield and welcomed UCLan’s offer. Alder Hey Apprentice Practice Education Facilitator Lisa Westley was involved in initial conversations. Lisa said: “UCLan’s not our most local Higher Education Institution (HEI) but it was a university that I was keen to partner with because I liked what they presented in relation to paediatric development.”

"UCLan’s not our most local Higher Education Institution (HEI) but it was a university that I was keen to partner with because I liked what they presented in relation to paediatric development."

Lisa Westley, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

In the initial stages Lisa was also pleased with the ongoing support provided by the university. Lisa said: “We were supported through the whole of the Nursing and Midwifery Council validation process. Communication was really good, with the university providing support around any questions that we had.” August 2021 saw the first cohort of eight, 4-year RNDAs recruited, with a second cohort of existing Nursing Associate or Assistant Practitioner staff enrolling on the 2-year course in January 2022.

The first cohort was a mix of internal and external applicants and included a broad spectrum of people, ranging from college leavers to people who had completed a second or third degree. Lisa said: “As they've got a little bit of life experience, and a number of them have already previously achieved degrees, there's some familiarity for them, and they're much more willing to think and ask the ‘why?’ questions.” The second cohort all recruited internally brought together skills and knowledge from within the Trust. Lisa added: “It showed diversity, and they brought an awful lot of different information and support into group conversations, which was really beneficial.”

"I would absolutely recommend it in a heartbeat. I think Nursing Apprenticeships are wonderful. I think they’re the future of Nursing."

Lisa Westley, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

The upskilling of current staff has worked well, as staff are already familiar with policies, procedures, and expectations which align to the Trust’s vision. Both cohorts are showing great progress with feedback from practice assessments showing they will be better prepared for practice and are now much more integrated as part of the team. Summing up the experience of working with the University and the value Degree Apprenticeships can bring, Lisa said: “I would absolutely recommend it in a heartbeat. I think Nursing Apprenticeships are wonderful. I think they’re the future of Nursing.”

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