Aspiring student nurses are being given the chance to gain vital experience on the wards of Norfolk’s community hospitals as part of a national pilot designed to ensure future NHS staff show the highest levels of care and compassion.

Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C) is thought to be the only community-based NHS Trust in the country to offer placements on the Pre-Nursing Experience Pilot, which gives people at the beginning of their career the chance to gain up to a year’s experience as a nursing assistant before applying for undergraduate nursing education.

The pilot has been introduced in response to the 2013 Francis Report, which highlighted the need for would-be student nurses to gain experience which tests their values and levels of care and compassion before they begin their undergraduate training.

At a regional conference to be held this week (January 29), organised by Health Education East of England, the three recruits who joined NCH&C as part of the pilot in 2013 will speak about what they have learnt so far and how they are striving to live up to the values of the NHS and the 6Cs.

The 6Cs were introduced in December 2012 by Chief Nursing Officer of England Jane Cummings and are: Care; Compassion; Competence; Communication; Courage; and Commitment.

This week (January 20-26) is national ‘6Cs Live! Week’, which encourages NHS staff across the country to think more about how they can further embed these values into day to day work.

Lucy Softley, 23, is working at Caroline House, in Norwich, a specialist neurological rehabilitation inpatient unit which helps patients with brain injuries from across Norfolk and Suffolk to achieve as much independence, variety, choice, dignity and fulfilment in their daily lives as possible.

A former deputy manager in a stationery shop, she was interviewed for a place on the pilot after applying for an apprenticeship with NCH&C. Since joining the team at Caroline House at the start of October, she has thoroughly enjoyed gaining first-hand experience of caring for patients.

“I’ve found it really rewarding and am enjoying working on the ward,” said Lucy. “To see the difference in some of the patients and the progress they have made is quite amazing.

“Nursing is always something I’d been interested in doing, but I wasn’t sure my grades would be good enough. I thought that applying for an apprenticeship would be a good way to get a foot in the door, and then got the call about the pre-nursing pilot.

“I’ve done a bit of everything so far, including patient care, helping with feeding at mealtimes, washing, changing dressings and doing observations and glucose tests. I’d definitely like to do a degree in adult nursing when I’ve finished this course, and hope I may come back to work at Caroline House one day.”

Bethany Ainscombe, 18, who is working on Foxley Ward, at Dereham Community Hospital, said: “I was worried that it may not be what I had in mind. But actually it has helped me to realise how much I love caring for people.

“Before the pilot started, I wanted to apply for nursing training at the University of East Anglia, but I have had no experience of nursing and felt I might be jumping in at the deep end. So I applied for an apprenticeship with NCH&C and ended up being offered a place on the pilot.

“Since then, I’ve covered the basics, like washing and dressing patients, as well as learning how to take their temperature and look at blood glucose levels.”

Fellow recruit Meg Simmons, 18, who is based at Norwich Community Hospital’s Alder Ward, said: “I have always wanted a career in nursing so this is a perfect opportunity for me. I’ve already been shadowing other staff members, learning about some of the things I will be doing after my initial training.”

Marcia Perry, NCH&C’s Deputy Director of Nursing, Quality, and Operations, commented: “This new initiative came following the Francis Report and aims to instil the values of the NHS, such as compassionate care, into new staff from day one.

“It is giving would-be nurses a valuable opportunity to gain frontline experience of caring for patients on the wards, which will give them an important insight into the skills needed to become a nurse while also helping them to decide whether the role is right for them.

“I’m delighted that NHC&C is a pioneer of this scheme, as we are helping to build a dedicated NHS workforce which is committed to high quality care.”


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