National Apprenticeship Week – Matthew

Posted: 10/02/21

Matthew Fairclough, Peer Support Worker undertaking the Registered Mental Health Nursing Apprenticeship

I began as a volunteer for the Trust, before moving on to a paid position as a full-time Peer Support Worker. This involves working alongside Care Coordinators and Consultant Psychiatrists within our busy Community Treatment Team, to support the people under the team’s care.

Although I love this role, the Trust offered me the unmissable opportunity to join the Registered Mental Health Nursing Apprenticeship course while still supporting the team as a Peer Support Worker. This is opening up a much wider range of career progression opportunities for me. Without this opportunity to learn and earn at the same time, I wouldn’t have been able to undertake this level of training.

I really like the apprenticeship as it allows me to put what I’ve learned into practice straight away, rather than waiting to finish training and secure a job.

Juggling learning and work has been a big learning curve! I am finding that planning is key, not only to completing the coursework alongside a full-time job, but also for maintaining my own mental health and wellbeing. My manager and my team in general are so supportive and encouraging, which has been a huge help. The University staff are also very understanding, and the course has been specifically designed with the Nursing and Midwifery Council to ensure that all requirements are met while recognising that we are not traditional full-time nursing students.

The thing I’ve enjoyed most about my apprenticeship is being a positive role model to the people I support at work. My progression from volunteering to now taking on this higher qualification helps me to show them that becoming unwell doesn’t have to be the end of your life or your career.

I often joke that Covid-19 hasn’t had much of an impact on myself and my work – undertaking a Mental Health Nursing Degree Apprenticeship whilst holding down my full time role of a Peer Supporter means I don’t have much of a social life as it is!

My working practice has not changed all that much, although social distancing and PPE have made a significant impact. Being able to get back to providing face-to-face contact with my patients has meant so much, as for many of them my visits may be the only time they feel safe and comfortable in leaving the house. The initial lockdown caused some upheaval for patients as we had to limit contact to telephone calls for a little while. I feel privileged to be working alongside them and that they have let me into their lives when they are at their most vulnerable.

A really big, and positive, impact the pandemic has had on my working practice has been greater and more effective use of technology within the Trust. Management have been awesome throughout the pandemic, providing lots of support and regularly checking on our wellbeing. Covid-19 has shown that the flexible, adaptable approach that we all have at CNTW ensures that our patients receive the best possible care, treatment and support.

My experience as an apprentice remains positive as it was at the start. The response of staff when I’ve been on apprenticeship placements has been very encouraging. My team managers and colleagues are so supportive, constantly offering guidance and encouragement, and giving me great opportunities to stretch myself in my day-to-day role to support my apprenticeship studies. They understand my different roles and ensure I’m able to meet my university requirements as well as my role as a Peer Supporter.

I’m nearing the end of the second year of my course and am looking forward to the remaining challenges the next two years will bring. I cannot praise CNTW enough for giving me this opportunity. The CNTW Academy team do so much behind the scenes. I would encourage all Peer Supporters, Support Workers and Nursing Assistants to do the Nursing Degree Apprenticeship.