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Tahya — Level 3 Senior Healthcare Support Worker

Tahya inside a ward at the City Hospital

You get so many opportunities here. I’ve been into theatre to watch operations, I’ve been over to the Queen’s campus to work in different wards…you gain a lot of experiences, rather than just hearing about them. 

Tahya Fells — Level 3 Senior Healthcare Support Worker

We spoke to Tahya who’s currently working as a Senior Healthcare Support Worker at the City Hospital. She told us more about her experience with her Level 3 apprenticeship.

What made you decide to choose an apprenticeship, as opposed to other educational routes?
I went to college for a couple of weeks and then I found this apprenticeship. I work a lot better with hands-on learning as opposed to traditional, classroom-based theory so I signed up for this course. Unlike university, I am getting paid too. Some people spend 3 years on a university course and find out that they don’t enjoy it, so they end up with several years wasted. With an apprenticeship, it gives you the chance to try out a role and decide whether it’s right for you or not.

How long have you been doing your apprenticeship?
So I started in January so I’m just over a year in.

What attracted you to the Healthcare Support Worker apprenticeship?
I was doing Health and Social at college and I found it very interesting. I’ve always wanted to look after people and care for them the best I can.

Was it an easy process to apply for your apprenticeship?
It was okay at the application stage, once I got accepted there were quite a few checks I had to do though, such as a DBS.

Do you get a lot of support from your employer and tutor?
Yes, I get a lot of support. We meet up every Monday and we do an extra call every two weeks just to check up on one another.

What kind of people do you think would suit an apprenticeship like yours?
You’ve got to want to look after people. Handling personal care isn’t the easiest thing to do, so you must be a naturally caring person.

What’s a typical day in your role like?
In my case, I’m not on the kind of ward that most people first think of, I’m on an admissions unit. So, in the morning the patients come to us before they go to theatre. So, we’ll do their observations, get them changed, send them off to theatre and then we’ll take their belongings to the ward. Because of the pandemic, we often get sent to help at the wards. So, in the morning you’d do a handover, you’d find out which bay you’re assigned to, you’d help wash the patient and every couple of hours you would have to do turns.

Observations would be things like taking their pulse and their blood pressure. On my ward you also have to do a standing blood pressure reading as well, just in case it drops, as it creates a risk of falling after theatre. 

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being able to help the patients. When I help with washing patients in the morning, it’s really rewarding to see them looking and feeling better. When they come into the ward, they can also be a bit nervous so it’s nice to be able to talk to them and make them feel more relaxed.

Are you enjoying your apprenticeship?
Yes, I’m really enjoying it. I’m so glad I chose this apprenticeship to do.

What has it been like working in a hospital during a pandemic?
Well, I started halfway through the pandemic, so I don’t know what the old normal’ is. This is normal for me, but I do see how challenging it is. To get onto my clean ward you need to isolate for 7 days and have a PCR test result, and if they don’t have that we can’t let them in for surgery. That can be a bit frustrating. We also struggle for beds at times, but we do our best to adapt quickly to problems like this.

What are your plans for the future after you finish your apprenticeship? Has your time spent as an apprentice helped give you a better idea of what you want to do?
At the minute, I don’t know what speciality I want to go into so I’m just observing as much as I can to help me decide. Once I finish this course, I’ll look into something called NHSP, where you can pick up shifts online in a variety of wards. So, you can go into a wide range of departments.

Do you believe that your apprenticeship has given you more opportunities to gain experience in your chosen sector in comparison to a student in full-time education?
100%. You get so many opportunities here. I’ve been into theatre to watch operations, I’ve been over to the Queen’s campus to work in different wards…you gain a lot of experiences, rather than just hearing about them.

Has your apprenticeship taught you any life lessons?
Yes, it’s taught me to enjoy what you have and to not take anything for granted.

What advice would you give to other people who are struggling to work out what to do next once they’ve finished school?
I think doing an apprenticeship is a good option as you get the theory-side as well as the practical. My course isn’t just work; you do get a day in college as well. So, I think you get a helpful mixture of everything.

Do you have any advice for anyone considering doing an apprenticeship?
I remember on my first day it felt so nerve-wracking, but I think you just need to believe in yourself because we all start somewhere.

We also spoke to Tahya’s assessor, Kerry, to learn more about the part she plays in college apprenticeships.

As an assessor, are you happy with Tahya’s progress throughout her course?
She’s taken to it really well, nothing’s too much trouble. If I ever give her any feedback she works hard to take it on board and improve her units. It is a tough industry, especially at the moment with the Winter pressure, so she’s done really well.

Do you find that you end up offering a lot of advice in terms of career progression?
A lot of people have different ideas, some would like to get into nursing some would like to stay on as a health care support worker. So, we work closely with the NHS, looking at different pathways. If they want a bit of careers advice, we help them with that but also things such as academic references if they want to go onto university.

Do you think apprenticeships are a good progression route post-school?
There’s nothing like that experience, especially in healthcare. If people want to become a senior nurse, that foundation of patient care they get really helps towards that. Especially with the NHS, they get a lot of experience with different wards.

Could you explain a little more about your role, for people who are not familiar with assessors?
Generally, I see the students at least once a month for a 1 to 1 session to talk about their progress, set them targets, give them feedback on their work. It’s my job to make sure they’re learning what they need to and I give them support to help them earn their qualification.

For a Healthcare Support Worker course, how is the work assessed?
For a Level 3 qualification, there tends to be a lot of written work but a lot of observations and practice. We’ll typically go into wards and see how they work. We’ll do at least 3 observations, so we can see if the theory is going into practice. They’re also expected to do some reflections, which involves them writing down their experiences and critically looking back on them. They review things such as what worked well and what could have been done differently.