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New nurses graduate through NSFT's 'grow your own' scheme

​Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is championing ‘grow your own’ learning to develop its existing staff and offer them an alternative route into nursing.

In November, ten NSFT staff have become Mental Health Nurses after successfully completing an 18-month Work Based Learning Programme and graduating with a degree in mental health nursing from the University of Suffolk (UOS), Ipswich.

The achievements of these graduates, who began their course in March 2016, was celebrated at event today where staff and UOS tutors shared their stories and contemplated their future aspirations.

The ‘earn while you learn’ course involves spending two days a week as a student nurse, learning theory, and the rest of the time putting this into clinical practice while continuing with their job at NSFT.

NSFT supports staff working in Band 1-4 positions, with a healthcare foundation degree, who may not have been able to access the conventional student pathway, to study the Work Based Learning Programme.

This group of students have been able to use their new qualification to move into a range of services across NSFT, including secure inpatient wards, older person’s services and specialist teams such as the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team.

It is hoped that courses like this, which combine working and studying, will help the recruitment of additional nurses. Dawn Collins, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Safety at NSFT, said: “The Work Based Learning course is a great way for people to enter into a career in nursing, 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 and 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 encourage nurses into our workforce.”

Kim Boggan, Talent for Care Lead, said: “It is challenging working full-time and studying for a degree but we find students who undertake this sort of studying, really benefit. It is really important that our Trust grows its staff, gives them opportunities and develops them to choose one of the many career pathways mental health can offer.”

Case study: Maria Gladych

“If you’re invested and committed to making a difference, it can really transform the care you provide to service users and carers.”

Maria Gladych, who has worked for NSFT for 13 years as an assistant practitioner, achieved a First Class Honours Degree in Mental Health Nursing through the Work Based Learning Programme, allowing her to pursue a career in nursing at the specialist children and young people’s Dragonfly Unit in Lowestoft.

 She spoke of the course, saying: “I am not a naturally academic person so my biggest challenge was the written work; however, whenever I asked for help I received tremendous support and advice and I actually ended up enjoying writing my dissertation!”

Maria, 30, who lives in Norwich, attributes a much deeper understanding of mental health and the impact it can have on people’s lives, to the studying she has undertaken over the last 18 months.

“Even after working in mental health for over a decade, I continue to have a passion for understanding what mental health is, what it means to people and what can help and hinder it.

“I strongly believe that good mental health, like physical health, is crucial for us to be able to live our lives fully and to our full potential. I also believe that this is something that can be achieved by anyone, but sometimes this requires support from others.

“I care for those who are having a difficult time with their mental health and support them in finding their own way of achieving a level of mental wellness that allows them to live a life they are happy with.

“Completing a course like this really opens up opportunities for you as a practitioner and if you’re invested and committed to making a difference, it can really transform the care you provide to service users and carers.”

Case study: Danny Willcox

“The Trust has opened up lots of different opportunities for me.”

Danny Willcox, Staff Nurse on Sandringham Ward at the Julian Hospital in Norwich, joined NSFT 12 years ago as an activities assistant, working with the occupational therapy team at Hellesdon Hospital. Having previously managed an outdoor activities company, the move was a complete career change for him.

“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 opportunity 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 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.

Danny then went on the study the Work Based Learning Programme, is one of the students to graduate, and will now begin his role as a mental health nurse on Sandringham Ward.

He added: “I’m really grateful to NSFT, as the Trust has opened up lots of different opportunities for me. Work Based Learning has given me a wonderful opportunity to learn while doing a job I really enjoy.

“It’s also broadened my horizons and put me in a better position to be able to support people effectively in a job I really enjoy. I am also appreciative of the support from the NSFT Talent for Care team, University of Suffolk and my colleagues on Sandringham Ward.

“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.”

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