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Warning over employer support for apprentice nurses

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A university vice-chancellor has warned employers may not be ready to take on apprentice nurses, because they are already struggling to support student nurses on placements in “highly pressurised” workplaces.

Professor Steve West, vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England, said many student nurses were reporting that their placements were not providing them with the experiences they needed.

“There’s no point throwing a load more people – vulnerable apprentice students – into a setting that is highly pressured”

Steve West

He said he supported apprenticeships as a new route into nursing, but warned that “we’ve got to find a model that works”.

Professor West said a great deal of facilitation, mentorship, coaching, and teaching needed to be set up by employers to ensure apprenticeships were a success.

Other industries that had successfully developed apprenticeships as a training route – such as in aerospace – had in place whole teams dedicated to ensuring members of the workforce were able to teach trainees, he said.

“There’s no point throwing a load more people – vulnerable apprentice students – into a setting that is highly pressured, where support for the students may not be there,” he warned.

“They will become quickly disillusioned and miserable,” he said earlier today during an NHS workforce event organised by the Westminster Heath Forum in London.

University of the West of England

Warning over employer support for apprentice nurses

Steve West

“I’m really for apprenticeships and I argued from day one that, frankly in my head, what we’re doing at the moment, broadly, is an apprenticeship – 50% of the education for nursing is already in the workplace,” he said.

He added: “For our nursing and allied health [students], they’re signalling back to us in all of the audits that many of them – they don’t think they’re getting the experience they need or deserve in that setting.

“So we’ve got to find a model that works. And then absolutely I’m for it,” said Professor West. He also said part of the challenge was ensuring apprenticeships met the existing standards for nursing  “to ensure we are not creating second-tier routes”.

During a speech he gave earlier at the event, Professor West also noted the 23% drop in the number of people applying to join nursing courses in England this year was “significant”.

He said some parts of the country were faring worse than others in attracting applicants to nurse training, and that it was important to ensure students go on to enter the profession.

However, he warned that students had to be “nurtured” during their placements, where 50% of their training took place, or else the health service would “haemorrhage”.

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