My apprenticeships "changed my life"

  • Date

    Wed 9 Feb 22

April Downey

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week and showcase the apprenticeships available at Essex, we asked graduate apprentice April Downey to tell us about our journey.

April completed a Healthcare Assistant Practitioner (HAP) Higher Apprenticeship between 2016 and 2018 then undertook a Registered Nurse Degree (RND) Apprenticeship which she finished in 2020.

Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship?

I was a Health Care Assistant (HCA) on a ward in Basildon Hospital for about three years and my ward manager told me that the opportunity for the apprenticeship had come up and she suggested that I may like to apply. At the time I was a Band 2 HCA and she explained that after two years I could become an Associate Practitioner which is like a Band 4 Nurse.

I was unsure if I would be suitable as I hadn’t been to college as I was a teenage mum and left school without qualifications and had to resit my English and Maths GCSEs. I had wanted to be a nurse since the age of 10.

My ward manager gave me the confidence to apply as she said I had the potential as I was already an HCA.

What would you say were the highlights of your experience as an apprentice?

Apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity - I never thought I would be where I am now. Doing the apprenticeships has literally changed my life.

I would never have been able to become a nurse without doing the apprenticeship as I am the main breadwinner at home so I still needed to be earning a full time wage.

I couldn’t have wished to have gone to a better university. I received so much support from my lecturers and the other apprentices.

Following the HAP and the NDA, April became a Band 5 Sister and after 8 months was promoted to a Band 6 Nurse. April is now part of the Integrated Discharge Team dealing with complex case management dealing with patients with complex needs.

Do you have any tips for anyone considering an apprenticeship?

Juggling everything is tough but you have to be strict and manage your time. It helped to be able to go to university and meet up with other apprentices to go to the library and get assignments done.

Create a support group with the other apprentices and keep in contact with each other.