Why did you want to do the Nurse Degree Apprenticeship?
My journey towards the Nurse Degree Apprenticeship has been a bit unorthodox! It started when I was looking for some part-time work while I worked towards my PhD in Literature and, keen to work with the NHS, applied to work for Dorset Healthcare University Foundation Trust. After one short-term position, I found myself working in an administrative role in Bournemouth East CMHT. I was immediately overwhelmed with interest and admiration for the team that I encountered: so many brilliant, ethically-centred people with such wide-ranging expertise all in one place. With the incredible support of my manager, and of the team, I moved from an administrative role into the role of a Support, Time, Recovery worker – the first time I had felt that I was working in a role that used all of my skills, engaged the whole of my being, and also gave me a true sense of fulfilment in knowing that I was doing something meaningful. After some time in this role, and having considered other possibilities like psychological training, I realised I knew that I wanted to be a nurse. For me, mental health nursing is a unique, complex, multi-faceted vocation, that brings together a pragmatic, “grass roots” mode of working, that enables us, as nurses, to get alongside the people that we work with in their unique situations, whatever those may be, with elements of psychological therapies and approaches, elements of socially-oriented work, elements of psychiatric insight and medicinal therapies, and elements of recovery-oriented interventions. I honestly can’t think of a more fascinating or fulfilling profession, and that is why I wanted to do the Nurse Degree Apprenticeship.
How have you benefitted from the Nurse Degree Apprenticeship?
As someone who had already completed two degrees (BA, MA), the Nurse Degree Apprenticeship offered me a financially and academically viable way of training to become a nurse, and without it I would almost certainly not have been able to pursue this training which has meant so much to me. It has allowed me to learn in an embedded way, studying ideas, concepts and approaches in a way that is constantly enriched by my day-to-day practice and the practice that I see around me. It has enabled me to gain a lot of my learning from the incredible experts around me – all of the nurses, social workers, STRs and occupational therapists in our team; and I see this learning as absolutely invaluable. I have had the opportunity to work in a multitude of different settings under different mentors, which has allowed me to develop a wide range of skills and insights that I will take forward in my work. The Apprenticeship mode of learning has, for me, been much richer, subtler and more engaging than an approach that is primarily textbook or classroom based, and provides an excellent foundation for practice in the future.
What have been your biggest challenges / successes?
Mostly my biggest challenges have also been my biggest successes! The most recent of these was establishing my team’s first online therapy group (the DBT-based Life Skills Group) using GoToMeeting. I secured a license for this, produced a workbook and, with a colleague, worked on producing weekly sessions. The webinar was a success, and since this pilot the team has begun running other online groups and will likely continue using this format going forward. Prior to this I worked as an OU student representative, alongside the three other representatives, to organise and run a student wellbeing conference. I also did a presentation on mindfulness as part of this conference. The conference was well-attended, and had a good range of speakers including those from NICE, Livewell Dorset, Occupational Health and the Recovery Education Centre. Finally, my first big challenge came in working in an inpatient setting which was so different to the community setting that I am used to. It involved a huge adjustment for me, but as I made that adjustment successfully over the course of a 3-month placement, I also gained a large number of skills that have improved my practice and understanding of mental health.