Virtual Work Experience Week – First Steps into Nursing

To help explore the routes to becoming a nurse and the array of opportunities available, Healthier Together ran a virtual work experience week in July 2021 for school and college leavers from across Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire.

Five live webinars were hosted each morning from Monday 5 to Friday 9 July, covering the following topics:

  1. Career pathways in health and social care
  2. Day in the life of a care worker and nurse
  3. Patient care and the 6 ‘Cs’ of communication
  4. Simulation – Five health and care situations re-enacted
  5. Tips on where to apply and how to shine

How we were involved:

We supported Healthier Together by taking part in two of the webinars. Speakers from our organisation shared their experiences of working within the healthcare setting as healthcare professionals. Read more below.

A Day in Life of a Nursing Associate

In support of Virtual Work Experience Week, one of our very own Nursing Associates took part in the second webinar to talk about his experiences of working as both a healthcare assistant (HCA) and a nursing associate, and his progression to registered nursing degree apprenticeship that he is currently undertaking. We will refer to him as ‘P’.

P began his career in healthcare in the late 80’s. After taking time to raise his child as a single parent, P reignited his passion for the sector by becoming a HCA. He chose to undertake an access course to follow his path into nursing, and, whilst studying, joined the team at HMP Eastwood Park.

It was clear to P that he had made the right decision, despite comparing the working environment to “marmite”.  P was particularly strong on his view that “[the prisoners] are human beings and they deserve healthcare”.

P has been able to gain experience by working personally or vicariously in a variety of sectors within the prison. This aspect of the working environment added to P’s observation that it is “unlike any other environment” he has worked in. Some healthcare provisions which P alluded to during the webinar are: substance misuse; mental health unit; urgent care; bloods/ dressings clinics; wound care and primary healthcare.

P listed some of his daily tasks required when working with substance misuse, including managing withdrawals, balancing medication and detoxing. With regards to medication, he explained that each wing has their own pharmacy, as it is not common practice to allow the prisoners to retain their own medication.

P spoke of the urgent care team, and their responsibilities ranging from processing new receptions and conducting healthcare checks to obtaining GP records from the community.

Whilst expressing an interest in the area, P acknowledged the sadness around the high level of self-harm that is dealt with on a daily basis at HMP Eastwood Park. This links in with the mental health issues often seen in the prisoners, as P said “a lot of our patients have mental health issues in one form or another – some quite complex”. When asked how he manages to avoid emotional investment in the prisoners, P responded “if you can’t do it, I don’t think you’d last very long… They will tell you the most horrific stories… You do have to switch off… You need to be professional at all times”.

Currently, P is a working as a Nursing Associate, which allows him to give medication, take bloods and give injections. P went on to say that his studying is still continuing to this date, and he plans to complete another two years of training to become a fully registered nurse.

P said “you see the most amazing things” as he shared a few anecdotes, one of which involved the emergency delivery of a baby! He spoke very fondly of his team, saying “we become very close” as well as labeling the job “very rewarding”. One of P’s main advisories was that a sense of humour is essential to succeeding in the role of a prison healthcare worker.


Trainee Pathways

In support of Virtual Work Experience Week, one of our extremely experienced Clinical Nurse Managers took part in the first webinar to talk about his experiences of learning, development and training pathways during his career working in healthcare. We will refer to him as ‘R’.

R gave an account of his journey to date; from his original disinterest in nursing and his desire to be part of the police force, to his career change into healthcare. It was not until his late 20’s that R decided to pursue nursing, after working as a HCA.

The first person in his family to attend university, R obtained his level 2 in Maths and English to obtain his place; in his own words, “[I] never really described myself as an academic”. After attending university for two years, R decided to opt for a different path. Whilst working at the eye hospital, he received an opportunity to undertake an assistant practitioner foundation degree course. Once completed, R returned to university and completed his degree.

Whilst studying, R experienced secure setting healthcare by electing to attend a placement in a prison. This is where R’s passion to work in offender health was born. Once qualified as a registered nurse, R immediately undertook positions in prisons, and found “no two days are the same working within offender health”.

For the last 18 months, R has worked as a Clinical Nurse Manager across two prisons. Even during this period of time, R has continued his studies, namely in advanced practice. By his own admission, R has already experienced a range of job titles under the healthcare umbrella; quote – “once you’re in nursing, there’s always a job”.

Despite his passion for the profession, R advises others not to “rush into nursing”. It is evident that the nursing journey is a lengthy, but rewarding, one. There are numerous ways to achieve nursing status as well, so it is a good idea to look at the variety of options available.