Paula shares her story about her journey to becoming a qualified mental health nurse.
"I started working for Devon Partnership NHS Trust in 2013 as a support worker. I moved from Birmingham for the post and I am employed at Langdon Hospital, a secure service for adult males. During this time, I have had experience of working on different wards across Langdon. This has included working at the Dewnans on medium secure and on low and open wards across the site. This has given me experience of the care pathway available for patients while in secure services.
When I first started at Langdon as a Band 3 support worker there was no in-house training available. The only way to do nurse training was to become a full time student with either Plymouth or Bristol University. This meant that I’d have to pay for the course and take out a loan in order to study. As a single parent with sons at home (albeit, adults and old enough to be living independently!) this was not an option for me. So, in 2016, when the Trainee Assistant practitioner programme was developed, I jumped at the opportunity and applied; I went for interview and thankfully was successful. The Trainee Assistant Practitioner programme is a two-year course with The Open University. Students complete online modules along with a work placement portfolio in order to gain a foundation degree in Health Care Practice. This meant I could continue working and earning, and study at the same time.
The first two years were intense as I had to learn how to write academic assignments and commit to allocating several hours on my days off to study. During this period, I also had to find time to complete my functional skills in Maths and English as it had been over thirty years since I left school. It was a very steep learning curve!
After gaining my foundation degree and becoming an Assistant practitioner, I felt I wanted to progress further and when the opportunity came up for a Nursing Apprenticeship with The Open University, I applied. Once again, thankfully, I was successful. I had decided I wanted to continue with The Open University as although it was an additional year, it suited me and my personal situation. It also meant that I could continue working at Langdon, which was my main priority, as I thoroughly enjoy working here and feel like a valuable member of the team. I am now coming up to my final 18 months and am looking forward to gaining a BSc (Honours) degree in Mental Health.
I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity and have felt that Devon Partnership NHS Trust, my managers and mentors along the way have been amazing. They have supported me through my hardest times and continue to give me on-going support in my training. I feel that The Open University has been the best progression route for me, with the on-line modules giving me easy access to invaluable resources. They have an amazing library and there are extra sessions available to build up on skills that are lacking; such as how to write an assignment and referencing techniques. I feel I have come a long way in three years and I am becoming more competent in my academic writing. I am now a lot more organised and know, well in advance, when the next assignment is due to be submitted, instead of leaving it until the last minute!"
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