Advice and development

The benefits of growing your own nursing workforce

Trusts are increasingly looking at new ways of building their staff numbers, Jennifer Trueland found out how Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust is widening access to the nursing profession. 
Growning workforce

Trusts are increasingly looking at new ways of building their staff numbers, Jennifer Trueland found out how Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust is widening access to the nursing profession

As a child, Amanda Cheesman longed to follow in her mothers footsteps and become a nurse; academically, however, she didnt make the grade.

On leaving school she went to her local college, where she did BTEC health and social care. Almost to her surprise, she flourished, going on to do her nurse training. She is now a senior nurse in one of the top trusts in the country.

As assistant director of nursing (professional practice) at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, Ms Cheesman is doing her best to widen access to nursing so the profession does not lose out on people who could be fantastic nurses.

...

Trusts are increasingly looking at new ways of building their staff numbers, Jennifer Trueland found out how Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust is widening access to the nursing profession 


Picture. iStock

As a child, Amanda Cheesman longed to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a nurse; academically, however, she didn’t make the grade.

On leaving school she went to her local college, where she did BTEC health and social care. Almost to her surprise, she flourished, going on to do her nurse training. She is now a senior nurse in one of the top trusts in the country. 

As assistant director of nursing (professional practice) at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, Ms Cheesman is doing her best to widen access to nursing so the profession does not lose out on people who could be fantastic nurses.

Traditional route

‘I wasn’t academic at school, but when I went to college I got distinctions in everything because I loved it,’ she says. ‘My tutor suggested I go into nurse training, where I was with people who had come through the traditional academic route of A levels then university.

‘I actually found it much easier than they did on placements because I already had the experience from the BTEC. I ended up doing a master’s degree in public health as well.’

Perhaps her own story has helped inspire Ms Cheesman to take a fresh look at widening access to nursing, finding new pathways into a job she still finds immensely rewarding. 

Her trust has taken a conscious decision to change its recruitment practices so that it is ‘growing its own’ workforce; targeting school leavers and offering development opportunities to those already working as healthcare assistants.

This is partly to improve nurse recruitment and retention, but also to ensure people from non-academic backgrounds have the chance to become nurses.

‘Like a lot of trusts, we used to do a lot of international recruitment, particularly EU nurses,’ says Ms Cheesman. ‘We had some good retention but nurses would often stay for a couple of years then go back to their own countries. 

‘When we considered how long it would take to get international recruits through the process of meeting things like language requirements, we realised it was 18 months to two years. So we wondered how much longer it would take to “grow our own” nurses locally.’ 

Bespoke course

One of the first steps was building a relationship with a local further education college to develop a bespoke pre-nursing course for students wanting to do a BTEC health and social care course – students who go to level three gain enough ‘points’ to apply to do nursing at university. 

Students undertake structured work placements at the trust, aligned with their studies, one day a week in the first year and two days a week in the second year. Successful students are then guaranteed an interview for a place to study nursing at a local higher education institution.

‘It mimics a mini-nursing programme and is about catching school-leavers young, who hopefully build up loyalty to the trust,’ says Ms Cheesman. 

The first cohort of eight students began last September and a second cohort of 13 start in September. 

Healthcare support staff

The trust is also finding imaginative ways of developing its existing healthcare support staff, giving them the opportunity to train to fill healthcare associate roles, and ultimately to train as nurses.

‘We have to create new routes to widen access,’ says Ms Cheesman. ‘If we only take people from the traditional academic pool, we are missing out on talented individuals who will make great nurses. 

‘We are creating a pipeline for the future, but also supporting those already working in the trust to become nurses. That’s good for the people themselves, but it’s also great for the NHS.’

Jennifer Trueland is a freelance health writer 

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs