Case study

How Steffi's apprenticeship helped her change careers

When teacher Steffi Ward decided she needed a career change, our Mental Health Nursing Apprenticeship gave her the perfect opportunity. She is now working at North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust as she learns.

Changing career paths

Steffi’s plans had all changed after she experienced a significant illness. She explains: “Prior to studying the apprenticeship, I was a teacher working with people with learning difficulties and learning support for young adults in secondary education system. But, after acquiring a life changing illness, I decided to change my direction, do what I’d always wanted to do and go into mental health nursing.

“I have had various experiences in my own personal life with relatives’ struggling with their own mental health and, with my illness, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to change my path and use my own experience to help and facilitate others in making their own changes in their own journey.”

The apprenticeship route allowed Steffi to pursue a career in Mental Health Nursing, an option she never thought was possible. She says: “Without the apprenticeship, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to train to become a nurse.

“I needed the ability to still bring in a salary while completing my training, so getting that foothold within a trust, considering the current climate and financial climate for the NHS, seemed like a fantastic opportunity. I applied for the apprenticeship, was offered a place and here we are almost two thirds of the way through the course!”

Gaining practical experience

While completing her apprenticeship, Steffi has been introduced to a variety of topics and placements, enabling her to grow and expand her professional skills. She says: “Nursing is a very practical profession, and, for me, I am a practical person. I take things onboard a lot quicker when I am getting stuck in and doing it myself so this apprenticeship has been fantastic with providing opportunities such as placements to learn theory first hand as well as picking up extra bits and pieces that I wouldn’t have learnt in the classroom.

“The facilities at Derby have been fantastic too. The simulation area at the University has been great for getting to grips with the practical side of the course. For example, we learn how to take blood pressure, take temperatures and escalation techniques. They are always innovating new experiences to help us to learn and improve our skills.”

Throughout her apprenticeship, Steffi has been able to get involved different placements, exposing her to a variation of areas within Nursing and her trust. She explains: “In my trust, it is specifically a mental health trust so we have a variety of placement wards that we can spend time with. These placements can range from Acute Patient Wards, Early Intervention, Mental Health, Dementia Services, Children and Young People, Substance Detox Units and so much more."

Steffi Ward wearing her University of Derby nursing uniform

There’s a brilliant amount of breath and depth of placements and knowledge at hand, that ultimately help you to get a clearer direction of the path we would like to take and the opportunities that exist within my trust.

Steffi Ward
Mental Health Nurse Apprentice at North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust

Career progression

Now, as Steffi is entering her final year, she looks back on how she has grown over the last two years on the course. She says: “I am coming out of my second year, and I have noticed a huge cycle of evolution. If I was to sit down with my first-year self and myself now, I am a different person. It has helped me to improve academically as well as building my resilience, understanding my own strengths and weaknesses, and developing my skills as a prospective nurse.”

Tips for prospective students

Steffi recommends: “Just go for it, it’s a great opportunity. Go with the flow. Be organised, know your goals and be a self-starter. That will help to make the course easier and allow you to develop as a better nurse. There are going to be times where you feel like you don’t understand what’s going on and that you can’t do it, but you can. Just take a breath and take a minute. You will get there.”

Student nurse applies dressing on arm of patient

Find out more about this apprenticeship

Read more about the Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship BSc, including what it entails and how to get on to this programme.

Find out more about the Registered Nurse Degree ApprenticeshipFind out more about the Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship