Case study

Nursing Associate Apprentice wins award at the 2021 Student Nursing Times Awards

Tarnia Lefevre, a student on the University of Derby Nursing Associate Foundation Apprenticeship was awarded the ‘Nursing Associate Trainee of the Year’ at the Student Nursing Times Awards in 2021 for her dedication to helping and advocating for the deaf community. Now, she is proudly using her platform to raise awareness about Deaf people and their communicational needs.

Finding her path within nursing

Prior to nursing, Tarnia worked for the East Midlands Ambulance Service as a Patient Transport Service Care Assistant. Realising she was dedicated to helping people and making a difference, Tarnia went on to find her passion for nursing by working within the mental health and deaf community as a Community Worker, which later led to her becoming a Trainee Nursing Associate within Deaf Services at the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

“I wanted a job where I could go home after a long day at work and know I have made a difference. Think of the butterfly effect, very small things that we don’t realise are important might have such a big impact elsewhere.

In mental health, for example, it may seem small, but listening to someone when they are having a bad day could have a positive long-term effect on that person. I find it very fulfilling that giving someone my time could have such a big impact on someone”

Choosing the Nursing Associate Apprenticeship

Tarnia was ready for career progression, after being told many times by friends and colleagues that nursing is the career path for her. She explained: “I wanted career progression; I have been told many times that I should go on to be a nurse. So, wanting to take charge of my career, I searched for options such as access courses, but barriers such as qualifications and financial burdens were getting in the way.

But when I saw the Nursing Associate Apprenticeship, it seemed perfect because I didn’t have to pay for university, and I’d still be employed. It felt like a natural career progression knowing eventually that Derby will bring in the degree top up which is what I will go on after completing this apprenticeship.”

Tarnia and a deaf patient doing sign language.

Exploring the different avenues of nursing

The Nursing Associate Apprenticeship has provided Tarnia with the opportunity to explore different avenues of nursing, from children, adults, learning disabilities and mental health. Tarnia explains why studying the multiple areas of nursing has taken her to the next level within her career: “I have found the Nursing Associate Apprenticeship highly beneficial, especially in studying and exploring community mental health. As our physical and mental health are interlinked, it’s essential that nurse associates are trained in physical health, so they can offer better services for people.

Mental health conditions are typically stereotyped as solely linked to negative mental health, but in fact, it could be a physical issue causing or exacerbating the problem. Especially for the Deaf community, where communication barriers result in poor attendance at the GP surgery, meaning they do not receive routine health checks and physical conditions can be missed.”

As well as learning the theory behind the different aspects of nursing, Tarnia has been able to cover all four aspects in practical placements. “I did a placement in a fracture clinic, which you may think that as a mental health worker, I wouldn’t need to learn. But there’s always a chance that one of my patients fall over and break something; now I have the experience to be able to help them with aftercare and monitor the cast. People aren’t just ‘one thing’ or ‘one problem’; someone with Schizophrenia is not just Schizophrenia, they are an individual with loads of different areas to cover, with schizophrenia. You look at a person first and then their diagnosis.”

Progression within her career

Thanks to the apprenticeship, Tarnia is now able to offer a better service to her patients. “The things I have learnt at university have helped me to understand why we do things and how I can back it up with evidence. If I am talking to a patient about getting a breast exam, I can explain with evidence as to why they need to get the exam done. Another example is looking at a patient results, I now know how to find the evidence as to what the results and figures mean. It has given me that theory and knowledge to back up what I do, instead of doing stuff blindly. It has made me a more professional, and it has made me 100% better at my job”

Highlights from the course

Tarnia has been able to get involved with areas she never would have experienced in her day-to-day role, helping to improve her career development. “Dissecting a kidney and heart has been one of the highlights of my course experience so far.  However, if I’m looking at the overall course, I love how hands on it is, from placements to practicals. I have explored areas which I wouldn’t have chance to do in my normal everyday role, which has been super beneficial for my career development.”

Tarnia at her graduation ceremony in a gown and mortarboard.
Tarnia in the atrium of Kedleston Road, University of Derby.

Winning the Student Nursing Awards

On top of all her amazing achievements so far within her course, Tarnia was awarded the Nursing Associate Trainee of the Year award in 2021. After nominating herself, Tarnia was shortlisted and ran up against many other Nursing Trainee Associates, but she stood out from the rest and won the award. “I’m so honoured and happy to have won the award. I never actually expected to win! It’s given me such a confidence boost and I’m so excited to take advantage of this opportunity to highlight the need for equality within healthcare for the deaf community”.

Tarnia holding her award at the 2021 Student Nursing Awards

I now have more opportunities and a bigger platform thanks to winning the Nursing Associate Trainee of the Year. I have been on the TV, radio and asked to do case studies such as this one, which has allowed me to raise awareness of the deaf community.

Tarnia Lefevre
Nursing Associate Apprentice

"One of my core roles of my job is to be an advocate for deaf people and I’m so proud to be able to do just that.”

Find out more about the Nursing Associate Apprenticeship