‘Every bump in the road is worth it’

Does the idea of more training make you nervous? You're not alone, but two RCN members haven't looked back since taking the decision to complete an apprenticeship to become assistant practitioners 

Leanne Jones and Daniel Geddes loved their jobs as health care assistants (HCAs) in a Macmillan community health care team but they both wanted more.

They enrolled on a brand-new, two-year assistant practitioner (AP) degree course. It was a step into the unknown, and initially they had no funding. They did however have the support of their employer who gave them one day a week paid study leave and helped with getting a mentor.

About three-quarters of the way through their first year, an AP apprenticeship scheme became available, which solved the funding challenge but involved an extra six months of study.

During the course they had to find their own placements and spend a day a week in different areas such as social services, a wound clinic and in a mortuary. They picked areas they thought would be most relevant, following suggestions that were made in their induction packs.

Earlier this year they were the first people to pass this course with distinctions. But was all the hard work worth it? Definitely, according to both members.

Leanne’s story

As a HCA a lot of my work involved holistic care for patients at the end of their lives in their homes. I also supported family members and made referrals to services for more complex clinical needs. 

Leanne Jones

It was a great job but after five years it was important for me personally to get an academic qualification. I felt I needed it to back-up my clinical work.

There were many tears when I first started the course – if I’m honest I felt that I didn’t know what I was doing. I found one of the dressing techniques very difficult to understand and needed weeks to learn it, but thankfully my mentor was very supportive and patient. 

There were many tears when I first started the course

My mentor was an AP and she encouraged me to build my clinical skills. I found it helpful to have an AP mentor me as it made things straightforward. I knew I could do everything they did. 

I had to persevere though. The whole course was really hard work – there were a lot of assignments and research to complete on top of continuing to work full-time in my own role. But I loved learning and my increased knowledge has really improved my confidence. 

I felt really proud when I graduated and completed my apprenticeship with a distinction in my end point assessment. This meant I had a distinction from the assessor from the exam board, who watched me in practice, in the interview, in my reflective journal and in the 90-minute exam. 

It was awful waiting for the results but I got a promotion to a band four role early last year, which was actually a few months before I graduated. I now have inquisitive nursing students shadowing me!

Going forward I’d love to become a registered nurse. My chief nurse knows my ambitions and hopefully one day I can progress. But for now I’m really enjoying my new role and am so proud to be an assistant practitioner. 

My increased knowledge has really improved my confidence

I never would have thought I’d have the confidence to be doing a job that needs such a range of clinical skills and knowledge. But it just goes to show what you can achieve with hard work and dedication. Every bump in the road is worth it to be where I am today.

Daniel’s story

Since becoming an assistant practitioner my role has completely changed. Previously I was a band 2 HCA working for Macmillan. I helped patients with their personal care at end of life – visiting them in their homes. I now work in a district nursing team visiting housebound patients.  

I do so much more now in my new extended role, including venepuncture, injections, insulin, wound care, doplars, compression bandaging, catheterisation, assessments and referrals and holistic patient assessments. 

I love it – my new job means I can help people live a better life. I really enjoy working with patients, even if it’s sometimes difficult to focus on that with all the politics and paperwork to consider.

My new job means I can help people live a better life

When I started my apprenticeship I was still searching for the area I wanted to work in, but I knew I wanted to progress and I haven’t finished yet. 

Right now I’m focusing on my new role but I’ve already been thinking about working towards becoming a nursing home manager or moving to registered nurse training as I’d love to work as a nurse in surgery. 

If you’re working in a band two or three role and have an ambition to take your career forward, remember you can do anything if you put your mind to it.  

When I was looking to progress my career there didn’t seem to be band four staff giving me this encouragement. But having lived this experience I’d advise you not to hold back. Go for it. Even if right now you don’t feel confident, be brave. 

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