Q&A with Grace Kirkbright, Clinical Support Worker - National Apprenticeship Week 2022
7 February 2022
Name: Grace Kirkbright
Job role: Apprentice Clinical Support Worker
CSU/area of work: J29, Chancellor Wing
What apprenticeship are you doing/have you done?
I am currently completing the Clinical Support Worker apprenticeship and have been since June 2021.
Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship at Leeds Teaching Hospitals?
Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to work in Nursing and been fascinated by the human body, but I never progressed enough at school to follow this up. Then in November 2010 my partner became critically ill and was admitted to St James's and they literally saved his life. I spent the following six years caring for him while he got stronger and learnt to live our new routines and then I found out about the apprenticeship. I had never forgotten the care that my partner received while he was in hospital, the support that the hospital gave to us both while he was an inpatient and the help from the Nutrition team that now looks after him in the community. I just wanted to give back. I knew I didn’t have any qualifications to just come into the Trust and become a Clinical Support Worker (CSW) and this apprenticeship could offer me a job that I had wanted to do since being small, gave me the opportunity to give back to the Trust for the excellent care we had experienced, and give me the qualifications needed to progress! The apprenticeship had it all!
Unfortunately, at that time my partner became ill within the first month of appointment and I had to step down, but I knew that I would be back as soon as I could and, seven months later, I was, for my second attempt. Again, due to homelife commitments I found this difficult and stepped back for a second time, but I knew I wouldn’t let it be the end. I then spent four years working elsewhere until I knew the time was right… during the Covid pandemic!
So, this is my third attempt and so far, the saying ‘third time lucky’ is ringing true. Each time the support that I have received from the Trust has been exemplary, the job far exceeds my expectations, and the apprenticeship is giving me the chance to open doors that I once never thought possible. I will recommend this apprenticeship every time to anyone that wants to start their career in health!
What are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship and why would you recommend it to others?
Oh, wow I don’t even know where to start with this one! From the academic side learning through Leeds City College is amazing, the assessors are engaging and hold informative study days and are always on hand to help you if you are stuck with any of your work or if you are struggling to meet any deadlines. The work learnt with college is of massive benefit within your work placement and you can sit there on every study day and say ‘Ah! That’s why (a procedure) is done this way’ or ‘That’s an excellent point, I’ll use that next time I am in that situation.’ No matter how much you think you have learnt on the ward there is always something you didn’t know that is studied.
Practically, the ward placement that you get does become like your family! All the staff you work with from other CSWs to Nurses, Doctors, Physios, and Discharge Coordinators are all one team and will always help each other out. Although the shifts can be long, on average you only work 3 shifts a week (and one week per month you work 4) so there is plenty of time to relax and spend time at home (or complete your coursework)! So, the home/work life balance is one if the best I’ve experienced. Going in hand with that is the wages, I’ve never known an apprenticeship pay so well as - although you have the basic wage - with shift work brings enhancements and enhancements boosts the wages! The annual leave entitlement is very generous too and despite the current pandemic you are rarely declined for any leave that you ask for. On the ward training is exemplary and you are thoroughly supported through your learning, and you are even encouraged to talk about what your aiming for in the long term and supported with that!
What difference does this apprenticeship make?
I think every person that has asked this question will have a different answer but for myself this apprenticeship is my foot on the ladder to becoming a registered nurse!
My ward manager has already said that she would like to support me to study a nursing apprenticeship once this apprenticeship has been completed and honestly without this course now, I know I would never have got there.
Overall, apart from having the opportunity to study nursing, the other differences I have noticed is my time with my children, I’m at home more than I was in my previous job so something like being able to take the kids to school or attending assemblies makes my day and I know the kids love having me around more. I have more time in general to live a life and not feel consumed by working.
Do you have any advice for anyone interested in this apprenticeship?
Seriously, just hit that apply button. As long as it is something that you truly have an interest in so aren’t surprised or put off by some of the jobs that you will be doing on the ward, I promise you won’t regret your choice.
If you do get asked to come to interview and are unsuccessful then ask for feedback. Just because you are unsuccessful once doesn’t mean that’s the end, you can re-apply straight away and use the feedback given to help boost you for the next interview.
If you are accepted onto the apprenticeship, then also make sure that you do utilise your time efficiently to manage the coursework with the working and giving you time off. Once you have your routine sorted everything will just slot into place.