21 May 2019

Grow our own nurses: Sarah’s story

Sarah Powell, Senior Support Worker at our specialist eating disorder hospital in Broadway, Worcestershire  tells her story of her journey so far with Huntercombe.

‘From an early age I knew I wanted to work in healthcare. Initially I was interested in midwifery however when applying for university I realised I wanted to focus on community health . However, during my degree, one of my good friends developed an eating disorder for which she needed 18 months of inpatient treatment. This had a profound impact on me and it was at this point that I decided I wanted to work with young people with mental health issues and if possible, eating disorders.

Why Huntercombe Cotswold Spa?

I live locally so already knew about the hospital and of Huntercombe’s reputation for providing excellent training and career development opportunities. When I saw the ad for support worker vacancies it looked perfect. Patients with eating disorders require both their physical and mental health needs to be taken care of so this role would enable me to get hands-on experience of both.

I have now worked here at Cotswold Spa for almost five years and I can honestly say that joining was the best decision I could have made. Whilst I was originally employed as a support worker I noticed that there were no senior support worker roles at Huntercombe and mentioned this during a supervision session. Like most good ideas at Huntercombe, this was taken on board and three new senior support worker roles created.

I was able to then progress into a senior support worker role, enabling me to further develop my skills and knowledge and take on additional responsibilities.

Training and Development opportunities

As a senior support worker, I have been able to get involved in all sorts of different areas such as working with the multi-disciplinary team to develop activity timetables for patients to help support independency within their eating disorder recovery; taking part in the inductions of new support workers; developing a “buddy up” system where senior support workers help to supervise new support workers during their probationary period; and taking part in CQC engagement meetings and inspections, QNIC peer reviews and NHSE visits.

There are lots of opportunities for training and professional development and I have undertaken training for Venepuncture, ECG, and various other clinical skills that not only develop my skillset but are also a benefit to the hospital.

I’m the hospital fire warden, first aider and equality and diversity champion and will soon be completing my manual handling ‘train the trainer’ qualification. I have also developed eating disorder meal support training that I deliver to all the staff at the hospital.

Grow our own nurses

I knew that Huntercombe offered a Grow our own nurses programme but wanted to ensure that I had sufficient skills and experience as a senior support worker before I applied. There are lots of applicants for the programme, I think that this year there may have been almost 100 applicants for 10 places, I wanted to ensure that if I applied, I would be successful first time.

The programme means that I can progress to becoming a qualified mental health nurse whilst still being salaried and with my fees paid by Huntercombe. I will still work one day a week at Cotswold Spa so get to retain my contact with my colleagues and patients, I’ll then have three days a week at university and various placements elsewhere as well.

The only thing that Huntercombe ask in return is that I commit to carry on working for them for two years after I graduate. That’s an easy commitment to make because not only do I love working here but I also get to do my preceptorship here. I can also train to mentor and then become a team leader – which is all really helpful experience because I have my eye on the hospital manager’s job in about ten years time (she does know this and is happy to support me in any way she can).

I would say to anybody considering a career with Huntercombe or the Grow our own nurses programme, to just go for it. Get as much experience as you can, jump at every opportunity for training or additional responsibilities and don’t be shy about making suggestions; if they’re sensible and reasonable, they will always be well received.’