61 Nursing Associates have successfully completed their Nursing Associate Foundation Degree Apprenticeship at the University of Wolverhampton and will celebrate their achievements at graduation ceremonies in the summer of 2021. The Higher Apprenticeship supports the recent introduction of the Nursing Associate role in England which bridges the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses to deliver hands-on, person-centred care.

They are now members of the nursing “family” who, as part of their Apprenticeship, can gain a Nursing Associate Foundation Degree and are eligible to apply to join the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register. The role was introduced to help build the capacity of the nursing workforce and the delivery of high-quality care, while supporting registered nurses and wider multidisciplinary teams to focus on more complex clinical duties.

The University has over 200 Nursing Associate Apprentices working on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic in a variety of healthcare roles for NHS Trusts and Care Homes across the region and further afield. Dr Alex Hopkins, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Health & Wellbeing, said: “Originally, 11 test sites were chosen by Health Education England (HEE) to deliver the first wave of Nursing Associate training in 2017, and the University of Wolverhampton’s bid was the only successful one in the West Midlands. 

“Now, three years later, two Apprenticeship cohorts have successfully reached their end point assessment and will graduate with the rest of our Class of 2020 students in the summer next year, an amazing achievement for all those individuals who have been inspired to take the opportunity to further their careers in the healthcare sectors. Now, more than ever, we have seen the importance of upskilling keyworkers who are providing support for nursing teams who are continuing to deal with the pandemic across all of our local communities.”

Two former healthcare assistants who work at an organisation providing palliative care in Wolverhampton were part of the University’s first cohort of learners. Hayley Webber-Waterfield and Jodie Webb from Compton Care recently completed the two year Foundation Degree Apprenticeship to become the  charity's first Nursing Associates, now qualified to support Compton Care nursing team by administering medication and tending to wounds.

Hayley said: "I decided to become a Nursing Associate because I wanted to further my education and career. The training has enabled me to remain at Compton Care over the last two years as an Apprentice and therefore continue to support myself and my family financially. I wanted to combine my compassion for others, experience, knowledge and education into a role where I could bring quality care to patients and their loved ones.

"During the training, I spent one day each week at the University of Wolverhampton where we I had lectures covering topics such as principles of nursing care. The remainder of my time was spent on our inpatient unit, where I received fantastic support from my colleagues who helped me achieve my new role. The Apprenticeship has highlighted that nursing care is not just about having clinical skills but also about having good communication skills to be an effective team member as well as an advocate for patients and their loved ones, making sure they are always heard and remain the very centre of our care."

The pair have spent time on placement within various care settings – including supporting district nurses and working with the tissue viability team at Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.

The training included hands-on experience and learning in the classroom – with graduates being officially registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Jodie said: “I have always wanted to be a nurse and this opportunity has enabled me to learn new skills and become one step closer to the next stage in my career.

"Being a Nursing Associate at Compton Care and the support that I have received from everyone working on our In-patient unit and also within other departments has given me new confidence and knowledge. I work with an amazing team and coming to work each day to provide care for patients here at Compton Care is a pleasure."

Carly Manning, Associate Director of Nursing at Compton Care, said: “Since qualifying, our Nursing Associates have worked on our inpatient unit, supporting our Registered Nurse role in providing high quality palliative and end of life care. From our perspective, this role has really opened up new opportunities for progression in our workforce, which can only be good news for the service we are able to provide to our community.”

Michele Roberts, Head of the Apprenticeship Hub at the University, said: “The Nursing Associate Apprenticeship programme has benefited from the pilot programme the University operated with a number of partner organisations during the initial set up.

“We have worked extensively with employers in building a programme that meets their requirements, Health Education England (HEE) and Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) requirements as well as ensuring the appropriate support mechanisms are in place for our Apprentices along the way. We are also excited to be able to offer the Nursing Associates a progression pathway to the Nursing Degree Apprenticeship with a shortened programme to help further boost recruitment – this will be available for our March 2021 intake.” 

Anyone employed in the healthcare sector and interested in studying for a Nursing Associate or Nursing Degree Apprenticeship should check out the Apprenticeship Hub website.

Over 900 apprentices are already studying for Higher and Degree level qualifications and the University works with over 350 employers.