A 25-strong first cohort started the Practice-Based Pathway at Preston College on Monday 9th January – a new, unique, innovative entry route into nursing, delivered by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
A first for the United Kingdom, the workplace-based programme, leading to a BSc (Hons) Nursing with Registered Nurse (Adult) degree, has been developed over the past couple of years, designed for those aspiring to be registered nurses, learning within their local healthcare provider.
Student nurses will spend their placement time learning alongside practitioners and academics at one of four NHS Trusts within Lancashire and South Cumbria, with an average week consisting of a mix of theory and practice.
In an effort to make university study accessible to all, UCLan has developed a suite of Return to Study entry programmes, designed for those who do not currently have the required entry criteria for a full university programme (formal Level 3 qualifications, such as A Levels or BTECs, or maths or English qualifications). This 6-week free programme is available for entry into a variety of different courses, including to those wanting to undertake this Practice-Based Pathway into Nursing.
This helps to make the Practice-Based Pathway more accessible for students who have the capability to demonstrate the qualities and skills required. No healthcare experience or prior qualifications are needed to access the Return to Study programme.
Kate Harrison, Head of Professional Education Development at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, explained how unique this Practiced-Based Pathway is: “The programme is the first of its kind in the UK, and allows our students to put theory into practice immediately. That means you can translate your learning into very timely and hands-on experience - you’re with us for a day, two days, then on the ward on clinical placement for the rest of the week.
“It also allows our students time to do extra work and it gives them other experiences and exposures.”
Kate added: “Some of the students didn’t know about Return to Study and are shocked to be here in January after us speaking to them in July. They were expecting to be able to start in two years, and it is amazing.”
“The Practice-Based Pathway programme is designed to support people who possibly wouldn’t have been successful within a traditional University setting”, which Kate feels can be another positive.
“Nursing is a degree profession and some people may feel excluded from it. Currently there are lots of people doing nursing who are the first people in their family to go to university, so that is a really scary step for some people to take, and academically it is a massive step.
Dr Andy Melling, UCLan’s Head of the School of Nursing, said: “It has been a fantastic experience working in partnership with Lancashire Teaching Hospitals to develop this new pathway through our existing pre-registration nursing programme. It has been designed and developed to specifically appeal to students who live locally and who are passionate about becoming a qualified nurse but may not want a traditional university education.
“It is great to see the first group of students start on this journey that will ultimately lead to becoming a registered adult nurse. I have no doubt that they will excel and enjoy learning in small cohorts from an excellent Lancashire Teaching Hospitals team based at Preston College and within their hospital trusts on placement. In addition, students can also access all the facilities at our UCLan campuses if they wish.
“If potential candidates lack the normal entry criteria, they can gain access by successfully completing the linked return to study programme. This is a short, six-week course, offered for free by the University of Central Lancashire and aimed at preparing potential students for future academic study. It presents potential students with an opportunity to study that they might otherwise miss, and that’s something that UCLan is passionate about – making education accessible to as many people as possible.”
Lauren O’Brien, Associate Director of Education (Delivery & Development), believes the Return to Study aspect is a game-changer: “For some people, nursing now isn’t as accessible as perhaps it previously was, and that is the beauty of the Practiced-Based Pathway, and the Return to Study programme.
“It really bridges the gap for people who feel a vocational desire to join the nursing workforce, but otherwise can’t overcome the hurdle of the academic entry requirements. Imagine, for the local areas we are working with for the delivery of this programme, and nearby hospitals, the potential for socioeconomic benefit is huge. This has the potential to change people’s lives and that of their families.
And Lauren is excited by what the team and the students can achieve together: “There’s a lot of potential, it’s very innovative and exciting. This Pathway provides a personalised approach to study, ensuring that students receive plenty of clinical, as well as pastoral support.
“The team have worked so hard, and the next step is getting the word out and showcasing the excellence. The NHS is an anchor institution, so we have that social responsibility to give back to our local communities and I think this is a fantastic example of that.”
Kate added: “25 students started on Monday and we are hoping to have 30 in future cohorts - there has been great uptake from Blackpool, Preston and South Ribble, East Lancashire, and we hope to have some from Morecambe in future cohorts.
“June isn’t a traditional time to start nurse training, it’s usually March and September. June will be of interest to people but they might not realise it’s out there. We would encourage anyone who wants to know more to contact the team.
“There’s also a Return to Study programme starting in March for the June intake. Students have to be committed, but the opportunity is there. People desperately want to be nurses, and we will do our best to help them. In time we will move to four intakes a year, January, March, June and September, and we are looking to recruit 30 for each intake.”
Like mother, like daughter!
Becky Fitzgerald – one of the first cohort of students starting the Practice-Based Pathway at Preston College on Monday – admits the Return to Study aspect of the course was a “godsend” to help achieve her dream job in nursing.
The Practice-Based Pathway is a new, innovative entry route into nursing, delivered by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire.
The Return to Study Programme is an intensive six-week course that enables those without the required entry criteria - formal Level 3 qualifications, such as A Levels or BTECs, maths of English qualifications – to quickly get up to speed, and Becky admitted: “I went through college for a year and it just wasn’t for me, but I still wanted to do my nursing, worked at the hospital for three years and knew that was what I wanted to do.
“Return to Study came up and it was a godsend really, it’s my way to getting into University to do my nursing.
“I’m very excited to get started.”
Initially, one of her tutors will be a very familiar face – and mother Annacelle could not be prouder.
As a Clinical Nurse Tutor, she will briefly help pass on over 25 years of nursing experience before taking up a new role with Lancashire and South Cumbria Care as a Clinical Educator, and she said: “I’m proud as punch! I’ve been qualified as a registered nurse for over 25 years and came to Lancashire Teaching Hospitals in the past six years, working in the education team, so I’m elated Becky is following in my footsteps, doing her nursing degree, and I think this Practice-Based Pathway programme we’re delivering in conjunction with UCLan is absolutely amazing.
“It’s giving people the opportunity to become nurses that otherwise probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity – the support they’re going to get, I think it’s fabulous.”
What the students think
Students - Keiran Northcote, Nicola Parry, Simone O’Connor
NP: “We’re very excited, we’ve been waiting for this day for so long, we did the Return to Study course, which was quite challenging, and being out of education for so long, getting back into the swing of things blew our minds a little bit, but we got there, passed the course and now we’re here!
“It’s a fantastic way of getting into nursing without going to college. I’ve been a healthcare assistant and worked my way up to a band four.
“You’re limited when you can only do so much with your skillset within your job, so when you want to continue and you know you can’t, it’s frustrating, so this course was an easy sell for me!
“Return to Study was six weeks, twice a week, on Teams.
“We have a big Whatsapp group and bought each other Secret Santa presents, and we feel like we’ve known each other for years!
“I’m itching to get going.”
SO’C: “I found it was quite easy, for people who haven’t been in education, to get used to things. There are all different age groups, so it’s been good for that. We’re from different areas, but we’ve all made a good group.”
KN: “Everyone has that support network before we start the Practiced Based Pathway course and it’s less daunting. The beauty of it is that there are people with experience and those who haven’t, and we’re supporting each other.”