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Hopes that Work Based Learning will lead to more nurses in Norfolk and Suffolk

In the lead up to International Nurses’ Day (Thursday 12 May), Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is highlighting how Work Based Learning (formerly known as the Flexible Nursing Pathway) could be an alternative route into nursing for people considering it as a career.

The Trust currently has 12 members of staff on the 18-month course which is based at the University Campus Suffolk (UCS), Ipswich. The ‘earn while you learn’ course involves spending two days a week as a student nurse and the rest of the time allows staff to continue with their current job.

It is hoped the new course, which started in March this year, will help the recruitment of additional nurses. Jane Sayer, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Safety at NSFT, said: “The Work Based Learning course is an excellent way for people to become a registered nurse if the conventional three-year degree is not an option for them.

“There is a shortage of registered nurses nationally, not only in Norfolk and Suffolk, which is an issue but unfortunately there is no quick fix. However, we do have ways of resolving it in the medium term, such as the Work Based Learning, which is a really positive route to get people into our workforce.”

The course is for NHS staff working in Band 1-4 positions who may not have been able to access the conventional student pathway but have completed a healthcare foundation degree.

Danny Wilcox, Assistant Practitioner at the Julian Hospital in Norwich, joined NSFT seven years ago as an activities assistant working with the occupational therapy team. Having previously managed an outdoor activities company, the move was a complete career change for him.

Danny became an Assistant Practitioner three-and-a-half years ago after completing a foundation degree, and recently began nurse training through the Work Based Learning course. When he finishes the course in September 2017, he will qualify as a Mental Health Nurse.

“I moved to NSFT as I wanted a better work/life balance and more opportunities, and was looking for something which would be a complete contrast, while allowing me to continue working with people,” said Danny. “I arrived with limited qualifications as I had never been very academic, but was given the chance to complete a year-long vocational related qualification through Lowestoft College, which opened the door for me to study for a degree.”

Danny completed his foundation degree at University Campus Suffolk while also working as an Assistant Practitioner, providing meaningful and purposeful activities to help service users towards recovery. He graduated in October 2014 and secured a job working on the Sandringham Ward, which offers care to older people – a role he will continue while he completes his nursing degree.

He added: “I’m really grateful to NSFT, as the Trust has opened up lots of different opportunities for me. Work Based Learning gives me a wonderful opportunity to learn while doing a job I really enjoy. It’s also broadening my horizons and putting me in a better position to be able to support people effectively in a job I really enjoy.

“I would recommend nursing as a career, and would advise anyone thinking of going into healthcare to work across as many different disciplines as they can, so that they can find something which really suits them and that they’ll enjoy.”

Linda Mitchell joined the Trust in 2012 after previously working with children with autism and as a full-time carer for her husband. Starting off as a housekeeper on an acute ward in King’s Lynn, she then became a Clinical Support Worker at Hammerton Court.

Linda became an Assistant Practitioner with the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team (CRHT) at Hellesdon around two years ago, and will complete the Work Based Learning course in September next year, when she will become a registered Mental Health Nurse.

She said: “I decided to go into mental health partly because of my experience of caring for my husband. He had lung disease, and developed a dementia-like condition caused by a lack of oxygen reaching the brain. He experienced some strange thoughts and behaviours as a result which, for me, was a baptism of fire into mental health.

“After my husband died I did some extra training and loved psychology so much that I decided I wanted to do something involving the subject. I went on to complete my Assistant Practitioner course and gain a distinction, and was then fortunate enough to be offered a place on the Work Based Learning course just before Christmas.

“I am absolutely loving both my job and the training at the moment. It’s challenging to balance the two but very rewarding.

“I feel very fortunate since joining the Trust and feel like I’ve been in the right place at the right time. Lots of opportunities have come my way and I feel incredibly lucky to have been given these chances.

“I feel like mental health nursing is the career I was always destined to do, and am very lucky to be given the opportunity.”