Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in News on 16th August, 2023
We spoke to Mandy Hewitt, about her experience of the Nurse Associate Apprenticeship and the top up Registered Degree Nurse Apprenticeship, and why she would recommend the programmes to others.
What does your current role involve? And what career path have you taken?
I joined the Jasmine Lodge Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) when it first opened in 2018 as a nursery nurse. When the opportunity for the Nurse Associate Apprenticeship came up, I jumped at the chance to take it as I’ve always been keen to develop my career. For the past two years I have worked as a qualified nurse associate on the ward - bridging the gap between healthcare assistants and registered nurses.
In October 2021, I joined the top up programme to become a registered mental health nurse. I’ve just qualified and started my first shift as mental health nurse at the MBU last week.
For 32 years, I worked as a nursery nurse in various health, social care and education backgrounds before joining the NHS in 2006 as a community nursery nurse in the Health Visiting team. When I joined DPT, I was eager to obtain a nursing qualification. Personal barriers such as childcare costs and the financial pressures of stopping work and paying for courses made it challenging. I attended evening classes to get my maths and English GCSE’s and planned to apply for my science GCSE, access to learning, and then nursing. However, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to fund it. That’s when I heard about the Nurse Associate course, which was perfect. I only needed my English and maths GCSE, and the organisation covered the course expenses, which means I won’t have a student loan at the end. There has been so many benefits. Yes it’s been hard work, but I don’t think doing the qualification through university and self-funding is also easy.
What will your new role as a registered mental health nurse involve?
With this role, I will have another level of responsibility and accountability, taking a lead in patient care. This includes pre-leave risk assessments and PRN (as required) medication. I will also be engaging in the preceptorship programme.
Although I feel a bit apprehensive for this new chapter, I am equally excited to see what the future holds. Receiving this qualification will open up lots of opportunities for me.
What have you enjoyed most about the apprenticeships?
The Nurse Associate Apprenticeship is a big commitment, as it’s a combination between a full-time university course and full-time work, but I strongly recommend it as a way to progress in your career. It covers all four branches of nursing, providing a great overview.
What I’ve enjoyed the most are the placements and discovering the range of services that DPT have to offer. These placements have been well-organised, and wherever I went I was welcomed and provided with great learning opportunities. Working on acute wards can be daunting but witnessing the care being delivered and the difference it makes to others is so powerful. Colleagues work really hard against many challenges. The networking opportunities I’ve had have been really valuable. I’ve been able to promote perinatal services and see how services interlink and people’s journey through it.
I have really valued the support from my colleagues at the MBU. They have been really encouraging, given me lots of opportunities and allowed me time away for placements. The Practice Education Team have also been really supportive and helped me overcome challenges. Their regular supervision sessions were really helpful and allowed me to ask questions.
You have to be organised because you’re trying to balance your work shift pattern and your assignment deadlines. My children are all grown up now but some people with young children have had challenges like childcare. I started this journey when I was 50, so don’t let being a mature learner put you off!
What motivates you?
I’m really passionate about my work and I always strive to maintain a high standard to positively impact people’s lives. I’m particularly passionate about perinatal services and the vital care it provides. It’s great to watch the services expand, such as increased community support and support for fathers.
This is a very rewarding role, especially working on in-patient wards and witnessing the journey people go on. It’s a powerful experience. The average admission is about eight weeks, and within that time you’ll often see mums grow in confidence, make recovery in their mental health and fall in love with their babies. We have a strong multi-disciplinary team (MDT) approach. Everyone has an important role and we work extremely hard together to make a difference.
Do you have any advice for people who may be interested in these apprenticeships?
I’d say go for it! There is plenty of information on Develop and DAISY. Practice Education regularly hold information sessions and is available to help answer any questions. When I began this journey at the age of 50, I was apprehensive, but it is achievable – no matter what your background or personal situation.
I can’t recommend this career path highly enough. I’m so thankful to DPT for the opportunity they have given me.
Hannah Fieldhouse, Ward Manager at the MBU, said:“The Trainee Nurse Associate (TNA) route to nursing has been an extremely positive one and I was happy to support Mandy on this journey. It has been a pleasure watching her develop and progress from being a Nursery Nurse to a TNA, from TNA to Nursing Associate and now nursing associate to Staff Nurse. I feel extremely proud of her. She has done herself and DPT proud by carving the way for what excellent looks like in a TNA and Nursing Associate. I am very excited to be working with her as a Staff Nurse. As a team we have been very open to supporting Mandy and future TNA’s at Jasmine Lodge as there are huge benefits for patient quality of care.”