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Growing the local nursing workforce with the Isle of Wight NHS Trust

Two NHS employees smiling.

The Isle of Wight is the second most populous island of England. The Isle of Wight NHS Trust (IOW NHS Trust) serves the needs of this population of around 150,000, delivering integrated acute, community, mental health, and ambulance health care needs.  

With limited local opportunities to train as a nurse available on the island, the IOW NHS Trust decided its nursing recruitment strategy needed to change. With a renewed focus on growing its nursing workforce locally, IOW NHS Trust partnered with The Open University to provide local apprenticeship opportunities. Making use of the apprenticeship levy, this approach provides residents with the opportunity to train as a Nursing Associate or Registered Nurse without having to leave the island. 

“The OU learning model works for the Trust and it’s not only flexible for employers, but flexible for learners as well. I feel very proud and privileged to be part of this programme,” said James Barclay, Learning and Development Officer at IOW NHS Trust. 

Theory based learning for the OU’s nursing apprenticeships is delivered online, minimising the requirements for face-to-face tutorial attendance. This flexible approach allows learners to fit their studies around shift work and personal commitments, without the need to attend campus-based lectures. 

“I grew up on the island and always wanted to work for the NHS, but there weren’t many opportunities for studying on the island with it - you had to move off and go to university. I knew that wasn’t really for me. I think it’s important to do training here as I can stay with the community that I grew up in and give back – staying on the island and learning was an important thing for me,” said Rachel Baker, a newly qualified Nursing Associate with IOW NHS Trust. 

Alongside theory learning, apprentices gain practice experience in the workplace and from placements across IOW NHS Trust, supporting this local approach to training.  

“Within my training, I worked on the Covid ward for the first part of Covid. Then coronary care unit theatres, mental health and learning disability teams, so it’s a really wide variety of placements that you can secure on the island,” said Kerry Black, another newly qualified Nursing Associate. 

The IOW NHS Trust currently has 76 apprentices studying for Nursing Associate and Registered Nurse apprenticeship qualifications. As well as developing existing support staff within the organisation, the apprenticeship enables the trust to recruit to its nursing workforce from the local population.  

“This is a key part of our resourcing and recruitment strategy,” says Donna Parkinson, Head of Education at the IOW NHS Trust. “We had an extraordinary amount of interest in applications and enquiries. When we first put the advert out and put it on social media, it had the most hits we’d ever seen with any of our recruitment. 

To celebrate graduates completing their apprenticeship and achieving their qualification, the Trust recently held a graduation celebration. 

Gemma Cherry, Staff Tutor with the OU who supports IOW NHS Trust to implement and deliver the apprenticeships, said: “The IOW team have captured the true essence and foundation of the OU mission and values, to make high quality university education available to all. It is particularly pertinent in this area, especially for those who live and work on the Isle of Wight, as Higher Education (HE) isn’t easily accessible, requires potential relocation, and has significant financial implications.” 

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