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Nursing apprenticeships - Frequently asked questions

What is a Nursing apprenticeship?

The nursing degree apprenticeship enables people to train to become a graduate registered nurse through an apprenticeship route. It combines work and part time study in a higher education institute (university) that has approval from the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) to provide the apprenticeship.

You can find out more about apprenticeships on the Health Careers website. You can also find out more information about the range of apprenticeships and the occupational standards* for each from The Institute of Apprenticeships The Institute for Apprenticeships is a public body sponsored by the Department of Education.  It has a range of functions that include ensuring high-quality apprenticeship standards are in place; responsibility for approving every standard and they play a key role in advising government on a number of related issues; this includes how people of all ages and backgrounds have the opportunity to maximise their potential and contribute to improving social mobility.

*An occupational standard within each apprenticeship describes the ‘knowledge, skills and behaviours’ (KSBs) needed for someone to be competent in the occupation’s duties. It also details any qualifications that must be passed and how it aligns with professional recognition where applicable.

What does the role of a Healthcare Support Worker (HCSW) involve?

Our HCSWs describe the role as rewarding, challenging but in a positive way, an absolutely privileged role and a great stepping-stone to a career as a nurse.

The HCSW role is a pivotal role, which is part of a wider multi-disciplinary team. In this role you will be working closely with people who may be unwell or require additional support or have different needs to people you might normally interact with.  HCSWs need to have good team working skills because people you work with will rely on you, as you will rely on them, for help, guidance and support.  Colleagues will rely on you to turn up to your shifts on time, to be organised, to act in a professional manner, keep calm under pressure and to treat those you come into contact with courtesy and respect.  Working in a caring role means you will often need to help people with hygiene needs, touching as part of care and handling bodily waste.  It is important you consider how you might feel about this when you think about applying for the nursing apprenticeship pathway, as it is a crucial element of the role.

We understand that before making the decision to apply it is important to do your homework – to get a ‘feel’ for the job, the organisation you’re thinking of joining and to decide “is this really for me?” We spent some time talking to our HCSWs and asked them to tell us about their working day and what it’s like to work at Cambridge University Hospitals. These are their reflections, which we hope you will find helpful. A day in the life of HCSW and  Is the role of HCSW right for me?

Benefits of the Nursing Apprenticeship?
  • Permanent employment as a HCSW-/ Nursing Apprentice
  • Access to the BSc Nursing degree programme
  • University course fees paid by CUH
  • Paid leave for academic study and practice placement
  • Support throughout your employment and training
  • Promotion to a Registered Nurse position
  • A  career pathway working and learning in one of the most vibrant, innovative and exciting NHS Trusts in the country
What are the eligibility criteria?
  • Have a kind, caring and hard-working attitude
  • Be available to work a variety of shifts covering a 24 hour period, to be able to support our patients
  • Be motivated and committed to develop clinical skills to ensure our patients’ receive excellent care
  • Be assertive and engaging
  • Demonstrate your commitment to patients, CUH values, teamwork and reliability
  • Be sufficiently self- motivated to complete this pathway
  • Demonstrate commitment and ability to study at both foundation degree, progressing to degree level study
  • Demonstrate a good command of written and spoken English
  • Level 2 Functional Skills in English and Maths or GCSE English Language & Maths at Grade 4-9 (previous grading A-C)*
  • Already be in employment at CUH as a clinical support role, or gain employment as a HealthCare Support Worker/Nursing Apprentice
  • Have successfully completed the National Care Certificate (NCC) and for new staff to have completed this before commencing the university cohort place
  • Undertake and successfully achieve a university interview - these are carried out by the university lecturers.
  • Not be registered with the NMC
  • If you are an overseas candidate, you will need to have a minimum of 3 years EU residency

Polite notice: Due to the Education, Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA ) guidelines for Apprenticeships, only these qualifications are accepted. If you do not possess these, it does not prevent you joining CUH as a Healthcare Support Worker where you can gain support to achieve the functional skills through support during employment.

What hours do HCSW / Nursing Apprentices work?

Working as a HCSW isn’t a 9 to 5 job. As a hospital, we provide a 24/7 service. Our clinical staff, including HCSWs, need to work to meet the needs of our patients, so are expected to work a variety of shift patterns including days, nights, weekends and public/bank holidays. You may be expected to work long days, short days or a combination of the two.

It is important that you understand you will be required to work on a rota, doing shifts that will include days, nights and weekends.  This ensures you learn how to provide care as our patients’ needs change across a normal day.

What are the stages to the Nursing Apprenticeship?

Below we provide more details of how the apprenticeship works in practice:   As outlined previously the programme is in two parts:

Part 1:  The first stage of the pathway is to undertake the Higher Apprenticeship-Assistant Practitioner Apprenticeship:

  • A programme of 20 months duration
  • Working as a HCSW for 30 hours per week and as a university student for 7.5 hours per week
  • An expectation of additional study in your own time of 9 hours per week
  • The content of the programme 4 x 30 credits(level 4 education level) modules and 2 X 60 (level 5 education level)
  • The modules vary between theory, practice or a mix of both
  • The final module offers specialisation in Adult or Child fields dependent upon what clinical speciality you work in
  • Assessments consist of Multiple-choice exams, Medication Calculations exams and written assignments (e.g. case studies, reflective portfolios)

There is a short period between Part 1 and Part 2 where you return to work full time as a Healthcare Support Worker.

Part 2: The second stage is the BSc (Hons) Nursing degree apprenticeship:

  • A programme of 19 months duration
  • Remain as a HCSW for 22.5 hours pw and a student nurse 15 hours pw
  • Expected to study 9 hours per week in private study
  • Work in a range of wards and community settings as a student nurse
  • The content of the programme contains 3 X 60 credits(level 6 education level)
  • Each module contains both theory and practice components
  • Safe medicate exams

Examinations consist of unseen exams, safe medicate exams, multiple choice question exams and essays.

How long will it take to become a Registered Nurse?

Most nursing degree apprenticeships typically take 4 years. It could take more time if you have time off for any permitted reason and is also dependent upon your cohort start date.

What will my salary package be?

The pay for this role combines the NHS Pay Band 2 and the CUH Career Apprenticeship Career Pathway pay rate.   For new staff you can expect to earn at least £18,000 per annum; this will include payment for unsocial hours worked (based on full time salary 37.5 hours per week).  The salary details will be outlined to you before commencement or for internal candidates a detailed breakdown of pay will be provided to you.

In addition paid leave for academic study and practice placement your university course fees of £27k is paid directly by CUH.

Earn, learn, no debt.