From education to employment

Training the next generation of nurses – a partnership between St Andrew’s Healthcare and The University of Northampton is taking the lead

St Andrew’s Healthcare’s runs an ASPIRE programme that supports Healthcare Assistants (HCA) employed by us to complete a Mental Health or Learning Disability Nursing Degree at the UON in just two years, while receiving financial and pastoral support.

109 students have qualified through the ASPIRE programme and 81 have completed a level 4 Certificate in Mental Health Studies through UON, achieving a qualification equivalent to ‘A’ levels. The qualification also provides the educational requirements to become full time Year 2 students by undertaking a special admission module before studying for the UON’s BSc in Mental Health or Learning Disability Registered Nurse qualification. 

This partnership between St Andrew’s Healthcare and the UON has enabled these adult learners to access a full-time nursing degree course in a way that might have been impossible otherwise.

With the support of lecturers at St Andrew’s Healthcare and the UON, their training and education is supported and encouraged so they can gain the confidence and skills needed to become degree-level professionals.

St Andrew’s also provides financial support and pastoral support during their degree, with opportunities for CPD events three times a year, supported by lecturers from both organisations.

Two-thirds of St Andrew’s ASPIRE nurses have taken this route to achieve their dreams of becoming registered nurses.

One healthcare assistant who qualified in this way in September 2018 is Phil Labrum who joined St Andrew’s Healthcare as a healthcare assistant in 2006 but wanted to become a qualified Learning Disabilities nurse (RNLD).

Speaking about the ASPIRE programme, Phil said:

“It was great to train and gain my qualifications while doing the job. Developing my career this way allowed me to keep up with my studies, while continuing to earn. As a mature student with commitments, there was no way I could have taken any other route to university, let alone have the confidence to do it.”

Another ASPIRE programme graduate is Simon Austin who is 45 years old and lives in Northampton. He started working at St Andrew’s Healthcare in 2000 as a healthcare assistant. Prior to this, he had been a builder since leaving school with 10 GCSEs at 16. He qualified as a mental health nurse (RMN) in September 2021.

Simon worked for several years as a healthcare assistant before embarking on the programme. One key benefit was the course was supported pastorally and financially with a month salary. Financially he wouldn’t have been able to attend university as a full-time student. Also, it’s given him a more in-depth understanding of mental health conditions and a desire to make a positive change in how people are treated.

Simon said:

“I had been working since I was 16 and had commitments so needed a monthly salary. As an older adult, I wouldn’t have been able to fund the course. The monthly financial support was a major factor in deciding to do the training.

“I was also able to fit in paid shifts around university. The course has built my confidence, experience and knowledge working with people with different mental health conditions. It’s enabled me to become better at what I do and help patients more effectively.”

Since the two organisations started working together, 280 St Andrew’s staff members have achieved a Level 4 certificate in Higher Education; 24 have achieved a foundation degree, and 148 achieved a BSc top-up degree; 109 Healthcare Assistants qualified as Mental Health or Learning Disability Nurses via the ASPIRE programme (as of May 2022) and 207 staff members completed education modules at the University.

University students also regularly undertake placements at St Andrew’s to gain real-life experience of working in an inpatient, psychiatric setting. Since May 2015, 1,079 placements have taken place, featuring 697 students across 12 different undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, including allied health professions, nursing, and social care. St Andrew’s also offers a wide range of apprenticeships, including the trainee nursing associate programme.

Education can transform lives. The close relationship between St Andrew’s and UON has fostered talent and given people choices over their professional and personal lives.

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