Cygnet Health Care (@cygnethealth) has welcomed 34 new nursing associates as part of a recruitment drive to train new nurses in mental health care.

The nursing apprenticeship programme is being run in partnership with six universities including the University of Wolverhampton, Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Gloucester with the aim to bridge the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses.

This year 14 new Nurse Associates will graduate from the programme and be working across the services nationally, enhancing support for the patients and nursing teams.

Since the launch of the programme in 2017, Cygnet has welcomed 669 apprentices across a wide range of programmes.

Originally from Sutton Coldfield, Suzanne Smith heads up apprenticeships in Cygnet’s Learning and Development Department, based in Birmingham.

Suzanne said:

“It’s not just about having the fantastic apprenticeship programme but it’s actually about getting the best experience for the people as well and being able to improve and drive forward excellent care for our patients and residents.”

She added: “The benefit of the programme is twofold. It’s about having home grown nurses but also having those nurse associate roles embedded into the organisation, as well as the benefits that our patients are seeing with registered professionals who are geared to look at physical health care needs that may impact mental health.  Being able to then step up to become a registered nurse is an added bonus to our services. We are seeing our hard working Support Workers growing and developing their skills, which adds consistency and quality of care for those we support. ”

David Wilmott, Director of Nursing at Cygnet Health Care said:

“I just wanted to wish all off those commencing their nurse education all the best wishes. Nursing is such a fantastic career with so many opportunities, make the best of every opportunity you have to learn and gain as much experience as you can.”

Apprenticeships are a major cornerstone of Cygnet’s work, and the company is committed to encouraging new recruits into the mental health care sector, where increased demand for mental health services has led to a national shortage of registered nurses. 

The provider currently has 19 pathways in total across the organisation, from Support Workers to Information Technology, Catering and Finance, with the plan to expand further in the future.

Originally from Erdington, Birmingham, Cheryl-Marie Hoskins, Nurse Associate at Cygnet Hospital Elms is one of the students who have recently graduated from the University of Wolverhampton as part of Cygnet’s apprenticeship schemes.

Cheryl has been working for Cygnet Hospital Elms, a Birmingham-based high dependency complex care service for women with learning disabilities and associated complex needs, for 10 years initially starting off as a support worker.

She said: “As a mature student working full time in the mental health hospital and being a single mother of three, completing the apprenticeship scheme, especially during the pandemic hasn’t been an easy journey. I had an amazing team supporting me at Cygnet Hospital Elms and of course I could not have done it without the help and support of my wonderful family.”

As part of the programme, participants are required to complete placements to equip them with real-life work experience. Cheryl had an opportunity to work at different Cygnet-run services including Cygnet Cedars in Bordesley Green, Birmingham, Cygnet Heathers in West Bromwich, West Midlands as well as Long Easton Day Services in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire.

At each of these services she gained different skills and insight into working with people learning disabilities, autism, complex behavioural needs and neurological illnesses including brain injuries.

“I would never have had the opportunity to do this, had it not been through the apprenticeship programme. I never thought I’d be able to be a full time student again. A massive advantage of the programme is that you don’t need to worry about your finances while you are learning and working. I think the apprenticeship scheme is fantastic for people like me who need a little bit of extra help to be able to engage in such an opportunity.”

Looking ahead, she is planning to finish her degree and become a fully registered nurse next year when she hopes to expand her knowledge in physical health and nutrition.

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