Better late than never for apprenticeship student

Michaela Derriscott is nearly a nurse thanks to University of Northampton's Nursing Associate apprenticeship and her employer PJ Care.
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With lots of support one student is a few steps closer to realising her dream of becoming a nurse.

Michaela Derriscott is nearing the end of her apprenticeship to become a Nursing Associate through University of Northampton (UON) and her employer, just a few years later than she originally planned.

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Apprenticeships, such as the Nursing Associate programme, offer a ‘earn while you learn’ route into higher education. Nursing Associate is a stand-alone role in the NHS with a focus on delivering hands on care.

Michaela Derriscott and Alex BalickiMichaela Derriscott and Alex Balicki
Michaela Derriscott and Alex Balicki

Michaela starts her story: “I’ve thought about going into nursing for a long time, but I’m a mum to four children and home-schooled all of them, so I have certainly had my hands full! I was also a carer to my mum – who used to be a nurse – when she was seriously ill following a brain injury, so I became a ‘mini expert’ with that type of care.

“Seeing nurses on the news during the Covid pandemic, I wanted to make that move. I applied for and got a role as a Healthcare Assistant (HCA) with a local care provider that has been my stepping-stone to nursing.”

PJ Care, based Milton Keynes and Peterborough, is Michaela’s employer. They are specialists in neurological care and, although well versed in supporting apprentices, she is their first from UON’s Nursing Associate programme.

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Alex Balicki, Head of Training at PJ Care, adds: “Michaela is very modest about her journey and what she has achieved. She already had a lot of experience when she came to work for us, both from a personal and empathetic side.

“That passion for providing good care was already looking for a professional outlet. She might be one of our oldest apprentices at PJ Care, but she ‘out runs’ many younger people! Her story also shows you’re never too young to pursue your career dreams.”

Michaela’s Nursing Associate Apprenticeship will officially finish in September and she talks about what she likes about this route into nursing: “Being able to earn a wage while at university is a real bonus. Of course, I noticed being a mature student during my first few days at Waterside because I was suddenly amongst lots of young people. But I thought: ‘You know what. I’ve got this. It doesn’t matter what my age is.’

“I enjoy what I’ve been doing, too. I feel that having attended UON and moving out of my comfort zone, in many ways has enhanced my resilience, and escalated my confidence and this will help me once I qualify.”

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Alex adds: “The apprenticeship route is vital for us in terms of ‘growing our own’ and building the local nursing population. But with any apprentice, they have got to be the right person for the right course at the right time in their life. Michaela is absolutely that person and deserves to be on the Nursing Associate programme.

“We’re 100% committed to developing Michaela’s career after she finished her Nursing Associate programme and are already working toward getting her onto the two-year nursing top-up course to nudge her to full nurse status.”

Michaela concludes by saying: “My children are impressed and inspired because they never thought their mum would go to university”.