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Nurse marks ‘National Careers Week’ by sharing her “fulfilling and rewarding” role at a psychiatric hospital in Northamptonshire

A woman, who struggled to hold down a job before she found her current role, has spoken out about the daily joys of her job to mark National Careers Week which starts on Monday, March 6.

Leanne Thornton had tried many different jobs before landing a position at the nationwide mental health charity, St Andrew’s Healthcare in 2017.

There, she knew she had found her purpose and concentrated on gaining as much experience as she could.

The 29-year-old was promoted to Senior Healthcare Assistant in 2021, before deciding she was going to embark upon the St Andrew’s Aspire programme, which supports staff into training as a qualified nurse.

 

ASPIRE enables Healthcare Assistants to combine their learning and experience to jump straight into the second year of the University of Northampton’s Mental Health Nursing degree. This means they can continue to earn while studying, completing their nursing degree in just two years.

Leanne said: “From the very first day at St Andrew’s, I knew I had found the sector for me. Prior to this I had been unable to find a job that felt meaningful to me. Here, I instantly connected with the patients and the staff, which is why I’m still here and am fully committed to my work.”

 

Leanne herself had struggled with mental health issues and spent much of her adolescence feeling very unwell, eventually she started to self-harm and experiencing extreme mood swings. However, after getting the right treatment and support she started to get better.

It was her experience with her healthcare team that inspired Leanne to want to become a nurse.

She said: “Their diligence, compassion and caring approach shone through, and it made me realise that I wanted to become a mental health nurse to support someone else experiencing problems.”

Leanne’s health problems however had impacted her school attendance which meant she did not have the qualifications required to embark upon a career as a mental health nurse.

She said: “I really wanted to be a nurse, but my academic track record was poor because I had been so unwell during my GCSEs. However when I saw the job come up at St Andrew’s I knew it was the role for me. I was hopeful that if I worked hard, I might be able to achieve my dream and train as a nurse.”

 

Six years later and Leanne has started her journey into training as a nurse, and she thinks her own experiences with mental health have made her better at her job.

She adds: “I can empathise and understand a patient’s perspective, as I’ve been there. The highlight of my job is patient’s making progress in their recovery. When they get better, watching them be discharged is honestly the best feeling in the world.  I can’t wait to complete my nurse training so I can continue working closely with the patients and helping to make a difference to their lives.”

Leanne started her BSc in mental health nursing in January and will join the nursing Bank at St Andrew’s Healthcare. This means she can fit shifts around her studies. Although she has the option to reduce her shifts if she believes it is impacting her studying or wellbeing.

 

Emma Swain, ASPIRE’s Programme Lead at St Andrew’s Healthcare, said: “ASPIRE is an incredibly competitive programme. It takes a certain type of person to study in adulthood so we’re looking for someone who has gone above and beyond in their Healthcare Assistant role as this gives us a good indication they will make a decent and engaged student.

“Nursing bursaries are means tested and usually not enough to live on whilst training, so ASPIRE is a great option for people that can’t afford to go down this route. Also, it gives people like Leanne a second chance. There are many people out there, for whatever reason, who did not achieve the qualifications to go into nursing and rather than close that book, we’re encouraging our shining stars to start a whole new chapter with us and reach their full potential.”

 

St Andrew’s ASPIRE programme helps at least 20 Healthcare Assistants a year to gain a nursing degree. It is open to those who have achieved either a Level 4 Certificate in mental health, or have a first degree in a health related subject. For more information, click here.

 

St Andrew’s currently has a number of nursing vacancies including newly qualified/ those set to graduate this year. The salary is £33,213 per annum and nurses will have access to a bespoke preceptorship programme over 9-12 months, to support their transition from student to registered nurse.

For those with no healthcare experience, St Andrew’s is recruiting full-time Healthcare Assistants where full training will be given. The salary is £20,535 per annum, plus shift enhancements.

 

St Andrew’s Healthcare is part of the ‘Best of Both Worlds’ recruitment campaign that brings together six healthcare providers in Northamptonshire and the University of Northampton to recruit nurses, doctors, and healthcare professionals to live and work in Northamptonshire.