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Sign up as an apprentice for a fulfilling career in healthcare
14/03/2016

People keen to work directly with patients and service users are being encouraged to consider signing up for an apprenticeship and taking the first step towards a rewarding healthcare career.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is urging anyone interested in a caring role to think about completing an apprenticeship, which would give them the chance to earn while they learn while gaining a route into the NHS. The call comes during National Apprenticeship Week, which runs until Friday (18 March).

The Trust has appointed 15 apprentice Clinical Support Workers (CSWs) across the Trust over the past six months, who work under supervision from senior staff to deliver basic care.

It is now hoping to add to that number by attracting more people looking for a rewarding and variety clinical career, in turn replicating the success it has had appointing apprentices to non-clinical positions, such as admin roles and customer services.

Helen Bell had always wanted a job in healthcare, but put her plans on hold to work as a beauty therapist while her two children were younger. She jumped at the chance of the applying when she saw the apprentice CSW role advertised, and took up her position in February.

“I had done some health and social care work before and decided when my children got a bit older I’d like to dip my foot back into it,” said Helen, 29, who lives in King’s Lynn. “It was the ideal opportunity for me.

“I will spend six months shadowing doctors and nurses carrying out home visits as part of the Dementia and Complexity in Later Life team before moving into adult recovery. It’s really good as it gives me an insight into the different services NSFT provides, as well as the all the different roles which are involved in delivering care.

“It’s exciting for my future as further down the line I will be helping with memory assessments and carrying out various tests, so will be really hands on.

“Once I’ve finished the apprenticeship I hope to go on to do a degree so that I can gradually work my way up at NSFT.”

Rebecca Bilham, who lives in Norwich, applied for the apprentice CSW role while finishing her A-levels, and joined the Trust in August. She now works with the community Dementia Intensive Support Team (DIST), based at the Julian Hospital in Norwich.

“I had preconceived ideas that apprenticeships were all about sitting in an office, answering phones and making tea,” said the 18-year-old, who is completing her studies at City College. “But the role is not like that at all and is very hands-on.

“I have a similar role to a support worker and go out with a member of the DIST team to visit patients in the community and do things like chat to them, liaise with their family and make them a cup of tea or something to eat. The fact that I am shadowing a member of the team all the time is really helpful as I get to ask questions, learn from them and see how they handle situations first-hand, which makes a real difference.

“My favourite part of the job is meeting new people. I work with a lot of older people and really like listening to their stories and finding out about their life. I find it really interesting.

“Before I started the apprenticeship, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Now I plan to apply for a band 3 position when I’ve finished the apprenticeship and go on to do an assistant practitioner foundation degree. I can’t see myself doing anything else.

“I would definitely recommend apprenticeships. Even if you are still working out what you want to do in the long-run, they give you the chance to get a year of experience while earning a wage and continuing to learn. For me, it was the ideal solution.”

National Apprenticeship Week is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and traineeships, while stressing the positive impact they have on businesses, as well as the individuals who are fulfilling the roles.

Julie Shrimpton, Clinical Team Leader with DIST, said: “Rebecca is frankly amazing. She has joined a very big and busy team, and is studying and learning whilst experiencing lots or new situations. She has taken all of this in her stride and to the benefit of the patients; we have had really positive feedback from relatives stating what a calming effect she has had whilst visiting.

“Rebecca shows so much initiative and motivation to learn and her confidence grows every day. She is a very valued member of the team and we are all very proud of her.”

Assistant Practitioner Kim Martins, who is Rebecca’s supervisor, said: “Rebecca is very motivated in her learning and appears to want to continue to enhance her role within the team.

“I’m sure she will go far in her career with the enthusiasm and dedication she has shown in the last few months.”

For more information about apprenticeship opportunities at NSFT, contact Jane Stringer on 01603 421564 or by email at jane.stringer@nsft.nhs.uk