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Nurse apprentices fast-tracked to work on NHS frontline during COVID-19 crisis

  • Date

    Thu 4 Jun 20

Nurse wearing blue protective gloves

Nursing apprentices at the University of Essex have been fast-tracked to become registered nurses to help the NHS frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic

At the start of the crisis, the cohort of 24 apprentices had completed their nursing degree and were due to start their End Point Assessment (EPA) – the final stage needed to complete their apprenticeship programme which can take up to three months to complete.

However, the pandemic meant this final stage could not be completed, leaving the apprentices in limbo, yet keen to use their new skills to support their colleagues in caring for patients impacted by COVID-19.

During this time, Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust (MSEFT) alongside Trusts across the country, provided evidence to Health Education England (HEE) to build a case for flexibility around the EPA requirements for nurse degree apprenticeships so more qualified staff could get to the frontline sooner.

Rachel Gray, Work Based Learning and Apprenticeship Lead at MSEFT, said: “It was vital for our registered nurse top-up apprentices to start working on the frontline as soon as possible, to enable them to support their colleagues during COVID-19 and be an additional resource to our registered nursing workforce.”

The HEE, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and the Education and Skills Funding Agency, agreed that all registered nurse and nursing associate apprentices, that had completed the mandatory training and met the Nursing and Midwifery Council registration requirements, would be able to complete their apprenticeship without taking their EPA. Of the 26 apprentices that started in April 2018, 24 have now completed their apprenticeship.

The University worked in partnership with MSEFT to ensure all relevant placement hours and skills were documented, allowing the apprentices to pass through their exam board and qualify.

Rachel added: “This was our first cohort on the registered nurse top-up and without the flexibilities that have been introduced, we would not have been able to deploy them as registered nurses as early as we would have wanted. They have now been able to work as registered professionals at a time when our capacity has been stretched.”

Wendy Rajah, Apprenticeship Lead at our School of Health and Social Care, said: “Of the initial cohort of 26 students 24 are now working as registered nurses. I am so pleased these graduates have been able to finish earlier than planned and are now working on the frontline within the NHS. Due to the current situation, starting as a registered nurse will be challenging but I am sure they will all rise to the challenge.”