Background Regulating bodies have recognised that there is a serious shortage of healthcare professionals (Nursing & Midwifery Council, 2021; British Medical Association, 2020), resulting in a workforce crisis (King’s Fund, 2022). The hospice had struggled to recruit nurses and had continuous vacancies.
Aim To offer health care assistants (HCAs) currently employed by the hospice the opportunity to train as nursing associates (NAs) through an apprenticeship. To help build the capacity of the nursing workforce and deliver high-quality care (Health Education England. Nursing associates. [Internet] [Cited 11 May 2022]). To utilise the apprenticeship levy and introduce a recognised career pathway.
Method Six hospice HCAs applied and commenced their training with a local university, funded by the hospice and a supporting grant. Information campaign as a new role. Support structure identified.
Results Four of the trainee nursing associates successfully completed their course in March 2022. The remaining two await results.
Struggles: The course coincided with a global pandemic. The trainee nursing associates had to adapt to on-line learning and changing clinical environments. The cohort of six was large. On-going support increased the workload of colleagues, shifts were difficult to fill especially with changing COVID demands and the reciprocal agreement for learners placed additional pressure (Robertson, King, Taylor et al., 2022. Br J Healthcare Assistants. 16:126).
Successes: Four of the learners have been successfully recruited to nursing vacancies within the hospice.
The reciprocal agreement allowed an exchange of good practice and spread understanding of the hospice.
The hospice community worked together to support the learners; ‘I could feel the support and that they wanted me to do well’. The opportunity provided a positive example of learning and development in the organisation; ‘having the opportunity to develop my career was fantastic, I am so grateful’.
Conclusion The cohort of apprentices was a learning curve. Allowing six staff the opportunity, during a pandemic, was a challenge and required hospice-wide commitment. However, vacancies have been successfully filled and the apprenticeship levy utilised. Watching the trainee nursing associates learn has been rewarding.
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