New role means bright future for nursing workforce

16 July 2018

Nursing Associate Apprenticeships to be delivered in partnership with UCLan’s Westlakes Campus

An exciting new nursing role has been introduced in Cumbria to help grow the future workforce and support staff development.

21 health care assistants from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) and North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust (NCUH) have now started their Nursing Associate Apprenticeships.

This new role will bridge the gap between health and care support workers and registered nurses. It allows support workers to build on their existing knowledge, skills and experience through a two year, practical programme, and gain a foundation degree level qualification.

The apprenticeship is being delivered in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). The apprentices will spend one day per week attending university at Westlakes Campus, with the rest of their time in the workplace.

Gill Long, head of nursing for clinical education, explained: “I’m really excited for our apprentices and proud of every one of them for getting to where they are. They will be crucial to our future workforce and it’s brilliant to be ‘growing our own’ staff. The apprentices all work as health care assistants at CPFT or NCUH and it’s great to be able to help them grow, develop their skills, take on more responsibility and receive the recognition they deserve by gaining a qualification at the end of it.

"Going to university to study nursing isn’t an option for everyone but apprenticeships give our staff the opportunity to earn and learn at the same time – which is fantastic."

“We’re confident that the apprenticeships will help us to attract new recruits in the future but also help us retain staff who want to progress.”

Tony Gill, course leader at UCLan, added: “I am immensely proud and privileged to embark on this journey with our new partners. This is an exciting time that values people and gives them a unique opportunity to change and influence the face of nursing. They will ensure high quality care is delivered with kindness and compassion.”

The apprentices’ new skills will be used to support teams across the acute hospitals, mental health and community services. Each apprentice will have a team where they spend most of their time but will also do placements with other teams across both trusts to gain a wide range of skills and experience including adult, children’s, mental health, and learning disability nursing.

Lisa Monan has worked as a health care assistant for 20 years but decided to apply for the apprenticeship following encouragement from her team. Lisa, who works in theatre at the West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven, said: “I really like the idea of gaining a qualification through practical, work based learning. At the end of the two years I can decide if I want to go on to become a registered nurse, it’s great to have that option."

"I’m really proud to be part of these new apprenticeships."

Catherine Little works at the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle and is also starting an apprenticeship: “I’m looking forward to working on different placements, gaining lots of experience and having more responsibility. With my new skills I will be able to provide even more support to my team. This is a perfect route into nursing for me – I can get a qualification without debt.”

Linda Bennetts, associate director of nursing for mental health, added: “These apprentices are the future for nursing in Cumbria. They are paving the way for others to take on this role and we’re all excited about the journey they are starting. Nursing is a fantastic career – there isn’t a day goes by where I’m not proud to be a nurse.

“We need to embrace new opportunities to meet the changing needs of our communities in Cumbria and the nursing associate apprenticeships are the perfect example of how we’re doing that. We’re always striving for excellent care and we can only do that by developing the skills of our staff and encouraging them to grow.”

The nursing associate apprenticeship is being piloted across the country following successful initial pilots to help build the capacity and capability of the nursing workforce. Once qualified, the nursing associates will register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and will take on more duties than in their previous roles, enabling registered nurses to spend more time on the assessment and care associated with complex needs. Nursing associates will play an important role within a nursing team and those who wish to progress further will be able to go on to complete their nursing training.