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Celebrating our newest nursing graduates

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is celebrating the achievements of its newest nursing graduates who have spent the last 18 months completing their degrees while also caring for service users. 

Ten staff have become registered mental health nurses after successfully completing a work-based learning programme while studying for a degree in mental health nursing from the University of Suffolk. 

The course involved spending two days a week as a student nurse learning theory or on placement, while also continuing to work for NSFT. It was open to staff with a healthcare foundation degree who may not have otherwise been able to access the conventional student pathway.

The newly-qualified staff are now working in a range of services across NSFT providing care for people with a range of mental health and learning disability needs.

Diane Hull, Chief Nurse, said: “Our congratulations go to everyone who worked so hard to complete this course while also continuing with their day jobs. It takes real dedication and underlines their commitment to the profession.

“Many NHS organisations across the country are facing recruitment challenges at the moment, so it is vital for us to find innovative and creative ways to attract new staff into the health service. Work-based learning courses and apprenticeships are a great way to do just that and offer a really positive alternative route for people to enter into a career in nursing.”

Kim Boggan, Talent for Care Lead, (pictured) said: “Once again, there have been amazing outcomes and benefits for our organisation through NSFT enabling and supporting staff to access the work-based learning pathway, which takes them from support worker to registrant.  

“These staff have worked incredibly hard to achieve their goals. Their knowledge, along with their experiences, will be an asset to service user care. 

“Acknowledgement and thanks should also go to those teams and managers who have supported the staff members journey from application through to final placements and gaining their Nursing and Midwifery Council pin.”

This cohort is the last to complete the work-based learning course, which has been replaced by a nursing apprenticeship degree.

Case studies

Lisa Carter – “I haven’t stopped smiling”

A former support worker who has spent the last five years completing two degrees while also working full time has spoken of her pride at finishing her studies and qualifying as a mental health nurse.

Lisa Carter joined NSFT nine years ago after developing an interest in mental health while working on a dementia ward at West Suffolk Hospital. A support worker with the Enhanced Community Pathway (ECP) team based in Newmarket, she had always wanted to become a nurse – and jumped at the opportunity to complete two work-based learning programmes to realise her dream and qualify in October.

“I had always wanted to go into nursing but wouldn’t have been able to fund the course myself,” said Lisa, who first completed a 28-month foundation degree before spending 18 months working towards her nursing qualification. “The fact that NSFT supported me made it possible, and I am very grateful for that.

“It was hard work and I had to be very well organised and strict with myself to complete the studies while also working in my day job the rest of the time. I had no social life for a while and weekends were all spent with my head in a book, but it was worth it.

“I’ve been excited ever since I started the course and haven’t stopped smiling either. I keep pinching myself and looking at my badge and email signature, and feel really proud of myself, especially as I got a first which was the icing on the cake.”

During her course, Lisa went on placements on inpatient wards in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich, as well as with NSFT’s crisis team in Norwich. She also completed placements with her own team, and now works with them permanently in her new nursing role.

“It’s great to have got a job with the team where I was a support worker, as I feel like I’ve grown with them,” added Lisa, who see patients with a variety of conditions, as well as helping to run psychology-led groups which the ECP team have developed for issues such as emotional regulation.

“All of my colleagues are all very proud and really supportive of me, which is brilliant.”

Dominic Melton – Dedicated Dominic completes his degree

A former assistant practitioner who has qualified as a nurse nearly 10 years after first going to university has spoken of his gratitude at being offered the chance to complete his degree and realise his dream.

Dominic Melton graduated in October after spending 18 months studying mental health nursing while also working with NSFT’s Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team in King’s Lynn. He has now returned to the team full time as a qualified nurse, and is relishing the challenges his new role is bringing.

“I was studying nursing at university but had to drop out due to financial issues,” said Dominic, who joined NSFT in 2012 as a support worker before completing a work-based learning foundation degree to qualify as an assistant practitioner. “I had always hoped to go back, but I wouldn’t have been able to fund it myself.

“The course was the perfect opportunity for me and I was really grateful to be given the chance to complete my studies while continuing to work. It was difficult at times and a lot to balance, but I was able to do quite a large chunk of the studying remotely and the tutors would also come to King’s Lynn to support me, which was really helpful.

“It felt pretty good to complete the degree. I first went to uni in 2009 so it took me almost 10 years, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without NSFT.

“I’m really enjoying working my new role – the fact that I am already established as part of the team has also helped me to make the transition to a qualified nurse.”

Reef Stingemore – “I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity”

A newly-qualified nurse who completed two degrees while also working full time has spoken of his gratitude to NSFT for helping him learn while he earned and opening the door to his dream career.

Reef Stingemore joined the Trust 14 years ago and spent a decade as a support worker at the Norvic Clinic before completing a two-year foundation degree with City College in Norwich to qualify as an Assistant Practitioner.

After a six-month break from studying, he returned to the lecture theatre once more to complete an 18-month work-based learning degree in mental health nursing with the University of Suffolk, qualifying in October. 

Since then, Reef has moved to a new role as a Community Mental Health Nurse with South West Adult Community Services based at Gateway House in Wymondham, and is relishing the challenges and opportunities the position is bringing.

“I’m really enjoying my new role – the team are all great and I’ve settled in well,” said Reef. “It also feels brilliant to have finished studying and like I’ve got my life back!

“I had always wanted to work in mental health as family members have suffered with depression in the past. Shortly after I started working for NSFT I put my name down for a nursing secondment, but unfortunately the funding came to an end. It’s taken 12 years for me to get another opportunity, but I’m so grateful to the Trust as I wouldn’t have been able to afford to give up work and fund the degree independently.

“My daughter was born as soon as I started the course, so it was difficult to combine work, studying and looking after a young baby too. My partner was really supportive and took on a lot of the child care, and I ended up booking annual leave so that I could finish my dissertation.

“It was all worth it though and it feels really good to have qualified. I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity.”

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