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Earn while you learn scheme at region’s mental health trust helped two nurses achieve their potential

PUBLISHED: 11:12 06 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:25 06 December 2017

Two mental health nurses who believed they were not very academic have championed a grow your own scheme at the region’s mental health trust which helped them achieve degrees.

Both Maria Gladych and Danny Willcox have worked for Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) for more than a decade - and the pair both undertook university courses whilst working.

Ms Gladych, an assistant practitioner, has worked for NSFT for 13 years and achieved a first class honours degree in mental health nursing, allowing her to pursue a career in nursing at the specialist children and young people’s Dragonfly Unit in Lowestoft.

Through NSFT’s work-based learning programme, staff can go on an earn while you learn course, where they spend two days a week as a student nurse, learning theory, and the rest of the time putting this into clinical practice while continuing with their job at NSFT. Ms Gladych, 30, from Norwich attributes a much deeper understanding of mental health and the impact it can have on people’s lives, to the studying she has undertaken over the last 18 months. She said: “I am not a naturally academic person so my biggest challenge was the written work; however, whenever I asked for help I received tremendous support and advice and I actually ended up enjoying writing my dissertation.”

Mr Willcox, a staff nurse on Sandringham Ward at the Julian Hospital in Norwich, joined NSFT 12 years ago. He said: “I arrived with limited qualifications as I had never been very academic, but was given the opportunity to complete a year-long vocational related qualification through Lowestoft College, which opened the door for me to study for a degree.”

Mr Willcox studied for his foundation degree at University Campus Suffolk whilst working as an assistant practitioner. He went on to study on the work based learning programme.

Dawn Collins, NSFT director of nursing, quality and patient safety, said: “There is a shortage of registered nurses nationally, which is an issue and unfortunately there is no quick fix. However, we do have ways of resolving it in the medium term, such as the work based learning, which is a really positive route to encourage nurses into our workforce.”

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