Apprenticeship confirms career choice for Sarah

  • Date

    Mon 7 Feb 22

Sarah Withers

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week and showcase the apprenticeships available at Essex, we asked Sarah Withers to tell us about her journey so far on the Healthcare Assistant Practitioner Higher Apprenticeship.

Healthcare Assistant Practitioner

I currently work as a community nursery nurse for a health visiting team. We run a service which involves providing support and guidance to parents from birth to 19 years. I mainly work with the under-fives completing assessments, making referrals, and supporting the parents so that the children have the best start in life.

I am completing the assistant practitioner apprenticeship; I am currently in my second year. Over the two years, the apprenticeship looks at different modules to give the apprentice an insight into the healthcare sector and promotes the two-year top-up course to complete either nursing, speech and language or occupational therapy degree, however, you can just complete the assistant practitioner apprenticeship and at the end you will have a Foundation Degree and be an assistant practitioner.

I have worked within the NHS for four years now within the same role, but I always knew I wanted to develop my career. I was redeployed due to COVID-19 to a general ward, and this is where the inspiration to be a nurse came from. I really enjoyed my redeployment experience so I wanted to start looking at ways I could gain confidence and one day become a nurse.

Due to personal commitments, leaving my job and going to university was not an option so when someone suggested an apprenticeship, I knew I needed to look into it. I met with the education lead in my Trust and my line manager, and we went through the different options I had to develop my career, this is when we found the assistant practitioner apprenticeship. I applied straight away – with permission from my Trust – and then, before I knew it, I was starting the course in October 2020.

Career progression

My chosen career path is nursing. My plan is to complete my nursing degree and then come back to the health visiting team to then complete the health visiting public health degree.

Within the apprenticeship we have covered many modules which have given me confidence in the career I have picked. For example, we covered a public health module, which I feel I learnt so much in, maybe because I was more interested in this area, but I feel it confirmed to me that this is the correct career path. Also, with the assistant practitioner apprenticeship we receive a Foundation Degree which allows us to go on to complete a top-up degree making us fully qualified professionals.

Within this apprenticeship I had eight student hours a week, which meant that I was able to shadow different health professionals to gain an insight into what they do. This allowed me to shadow professionals in different settings to my normal setting and made me decide what career path I want to take.

Reaping the rewards

The most rewarding thing for me is seeing how I’ve progressed over the two years and how much my confidence and knowledge has grown. I’m really proud of everything I have achieved since starting the apprenticeship. I think that starting at this level has given me more confidence, whereas I’m not sure how I would have dealt with just studying at university.

My team members from work have praised me and have said they have seen a change in my confidence as I am now taking on roles which are not in my job description because I am feeling more confident.

I have made lifelong friends during the apprenticeship, we support each other on a daily basis through lectures, exams, and essays. The support from the staff has not gone unrecognised either, our module lead has been very supportive and was always there whenever I needed her.

I’m really happy I decided to complete this apprenticeship as it has changed everything in my life – from my confidence at work to the new friends I will now have forever.