From education to employment

Derby mental health nurse explains how the apprenticeship programme is helping her career ambitions – National Apprenticeship Week 2022

A Derby nursing associate who was inspired by a nurse who cared for her father to help people with mental health difficulties has told how she has reached her ambition through an apprenticeship.

Kennedy Bowman (30) has been working on Alvaston Ward at Cygnet Hospital Derby, a 14 bed specialist low secure service for women with a primary diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder, for four years, initially starting off as a Healthcare Assistant.

Encouraged by her ward manager to participate in Cygnet Health Care’s apprenticeship programme, she has completed a two-year Nursing Associate course, and has now set her sights on becoming a Registered Mental Health Nurse next year.  

This week marks National Apprenticeship Week 2022 (7-13 February), which aims to highlight the exceptional work being done by apprentices and employers across the UK.

Cygnet’s nursing apprenticeship programme is run in partnership with universities nationally and will be moving to one provider, University College Birmingham this year for all their entire Nursing pathways which aim to bridge the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses, and to tackle the national shortage of nursing professionals in the sector. 

As part of the programme, participants are given the opportunity to work at different Cygnet-run hospitals where they gain different skills and insight into working with people with learning disabilities, autism, complex behavioural needs and neurological illnesses including brain injuries.

Kennedy said: “I think this course is so essential, especially in the light of the national shortage of nurses across the country, and I hope this will grow even more and hopefully we will get as many people on the programme as we can.”

 “I wouldn’t normally be able to go into a university course if it meant taking a pay cut. A lot of apprentices start on a really low wage but at Cygnet you do keep the wage you have before you start the course, which is really helpful.” 

Having been inspired by a supportive nurse who took care of her father when she was younger, Kennedy always wanted to work in the healthcare sector. “More specifically, I wanted to become a mental health nurse because some of my distant family members had substance misuse and alcohol problems. I just felt that if I could be one of those nurses, I might have been able to support them better,” she added.

 “I just want to thank everyone’s support along the way including Cygnet’s apprenticeship team and Cygnet Hospital Derby.”

Suzanne Smith heads up apprenticeships in Cygnet’s Learning and Development Department, based in Birmingham.

Suzanne said: “I have known Kennedy from being a Support worker to the current Student Nurse role she is in, and from interview, I knew she would go the extra mile to get the best possible experiences and go onwards to become one of our first ‘Home Grown’ Nurses. Our Nursing pathway is such a fantastic opportunity for our amazing support workers to go forwards in their career and for them to experience all the Cygnet offers for their personal development.”

Apprenticeships are a major cornerstone of Cygnet’s work, and the company is committed to encouraging new recruits into the mental health care sector, where increased demand for mental health services has led to a national shortage of registered nurses.  The provider currently has 19 pathways in total across the organisation, from Support Workers to Information Technology, Catering and Finance, with the plan to expand further in the future.

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