Tamara - healthcare support worker, NHS Lothian

My name is Tamara. I recently finished my Modern Apprenticeship as a healthcare support worker in ward 109 at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, which is an orthopaedic trauma ward. At the end of my Modern Apprenticeship, I was nominated for Young Achiever at the Scottish Health Awards 2020. I'm also a Scottish Apprenticeship Week Awards 2020 finalist, in the Modern Apprentice of the Year Level 6 category.

I’m now doing a supported HNC programme through NHS Lothian, so I can continue working while I study.

How did you first hear about apprenticeships in the NHS?

At first, I was unaware of the Modern Apprenticeship opportunity at NHS Lothian. However, a close family friend was aware of my struggle to get into university to do my nursing degree.

When she came across an advert for the NHS apprenticeships, she sent the link to me and I applied straight away.

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?

I had always dreamed of going to university to study nursing straight after school. I did my best to focus, keep my head down and study hard to get the grades I needed. Unfortunately, even though I tried hard, I was not accepted onto the course.

I knew there were apprenticeships out there, but thought it was more to do with engineering or mechanics. I really loved the idea of being able to learn on the job and earning at the same time. I was unaware the NHS did apprenticeships, let alone a course that could get you into nursing. When I saw the opportunity, I decided it was the best pathway to help me on the route to my nursing career.

How has this helped you? How will it benefit your future career?

Throughout my apprenticeship, I grew as a person and as a valued member of an expanding team.

My knowledge of how a hospital works and the roles of all staff involved increased significantly. Learning about the healthcare system helped me understand more about the NHS. It was also good to find out how much of a positive impact we have on a patient and their relatives.

My confidence increased as well as my knowledge of the ward. I taught others, but I also took on feedback, positive and negative, and learned from experiences. The apprenticeship provided me with opportunities to gain the skills necessary to continue my nursing career.

I've completed my apprenticeship now and I am now working on a supported HNC in Healthcare Practice. Once complete, I'll apply to Napier University to get into the second year of a nursing degree.

Tell us about a typical day

During my apprenticeship, I worked 12.5 hours a day, 3 or 4 times a week in the ward while studying too.

I provided personal care such as toileting, washing and dressing to approximately 14 patients every shift. I also supported and reassured them and their relatives and listened to them. During my time on the wards, I used various skills such as communication, teamwork and prioritisation.

The NHSScotland values helped me to provide the best patient care I could.

What do you wish you knew before you started your apprenticeship?

I wish someone had told me before I started this course how difficult it would be balancing my apprenticeship, my job and my personal life. I now realise how much work, effort and time goes into getting your qualification. You need to be willing to put in the hours.

I also take part in information sessions as part of the recruitment process. I share my story with my challenges but also the amazing experience it has been for me to date, to help them understand a little on what to expect coming into an apprenticeship such as this. 

What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of applying for an apprenticeship?

My advice to anyone thinking of applying to do a Modern Apprenticeship would be to go for it! Just be yourself and if you don't know something, then it's alright. Ask as many questions as you like, the more you ask the more you gain.

Working as a healthcare support worker Modern Apprentice in NHS Lothian was fantastic. There's always support wherever you need it and people really make you feel welcome. You're surrounded by like-minded people with the same objective and there are always opportunities to gain more experience and skills. Even when your apprenticeship is finished, there's always the chance to progress, move around or to stay where you are. The choice is yours.