Tamara - healthcare support worker, NHS Lothian

My name is Tamara and I'm a healthcare support worker modern apprentice. I'm based in ward 109 at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, which is an orthopaedic trauma ward.

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 have grown 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 has been increased significantly. Learning about the healthcare system has helped me understand more about the NHS. It's also been good to find out how much of a positive impact we have on a patient and their relatives. 

My confidence has increased as well as my knowledge of the ward. I teach others what I've learned but I can also take on feedback, positive and negative and learn from experiences. It has also provided me with opportunities to gain the skills necessary to continue my nursing career.

I've nearly completed my apprenticeship and I am applying to do an 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

I work 12.5 hours a day, 3 or 4 times a week in the ward while studying too.

I provide personal care such as toileting, washing and dressing to approximately 14 patients every shift. I also support and reassure them and their relatives and listen to them. During my time on the wards, I use various skills such as communication, teamwork and prioritisation.

The NHSScotland values help me to provide the best patient care I can.

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 is 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.