Some of the first student nurses involved in a national scheme that ensures trainees have prior care experience are due to graduate and take up posts as nurses in the North East of England in the coming months.
Due to the scheme’s success in the region, partners Northumbria University, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and Gateshead Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have been expanding the course since it launched almost four years ago.
“This course provides an excellent opportunity for aspiring student nurses to gain real life experience first to discover if it is the right vocation for them”
In addition, further trusts are now becoming involved with the programme – Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
In 2013 Health Education England introduced the national pilot scheme across six regions to provide aspiring nurses with experience working as a healthcare assistant before beginning degree courses.
The scheme was one of the key announcements made by the government at the time in its initial response to the Francis report into failings at the former Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
It was set up to see whether it could help to ensure people with the right values and behaviours were selected for nurse training, and also reduce dropout rates on pre-registration courses.
In the first year of the pilot around 160 people took part in the project, which involved spending up to a year as an HCA.
But academics warned in 2014 that the government must gather more evidence before expanding the pilot further, after new research found previous caring experience did not lead to better university results or improved drop out rates.
HEE later evaluated the pilot and in 2015 reported it had been successful because many participants would not would not have otherwise considered a career in healthcare among other reasons.
“Of the original recruits they are all graduating this year apart from one who loved being an HCA so much she decided to stay in the role”
It recommended that formalised pre-nursing degree care experience should be one of the routes available to potential pre-registration nursing students and that, while there should be no fixed duration, the optimum period as an HCA was six months.
However, it said was too early to know whether prior care experience would result in lower dropout rates from nursing degrees.
In the North East, 11 nursing students from the pilot are due to graduate this year, with some having already secured future employment.
Julie Derbyshire, senior lecturer and the course leader at Northumbria University, said: “Nursing is a wonderful and rewarding career. However, it isn’t necessarily right for everyone and this course provides an excellent opportunity for aspiring student nurses to gain real life experience first to discover if it is the right vocation for them.”
“The pre-nursing course has proved very successful and this is thanks to our joint working with the NHS trusts,” she said.
“We are delighted that, out of the original recruits, they are all graduating this year apart from one who loved being a health care assistant so much she decided to stay in the role and another who went on to train as a chiropodist,” she added.
“The students are more confident entering a nursing degree because of their prior experience”
Dennis Little, workforce development and education manager at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to have been involved in the pre-nursing programme from the start and will shortly be recruiting our seventh intake.
“We have been so impressed with the candidates, the university and the benefits it brings to the trust and our patients that we would commit to doing this regardless of any additional funding,” he said.
“The students are more confident entering a nursing degree because of their prior experience, and can relate their real life experience to their studies,” he added.