University Centre Truro & Penwith: First nursing associate apprentices graduate

The first ever group of fully qualified nursing associates graduated from the University Centre Truro & Penwith in June 2022, boosting numbers and service levels on the frontline of Cornwall’s NHS

The University Centre Truro & Penwith introduced its nursing associate apprenticeship in June 2020 as part of an exciting new partnership with Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) and The University of Greenwich to enhance Cornwall’s nursing numbers and future skills.

Nursing associate is a new position introduced by the NHS to bridge the gap between a healthcare assistant and a registered nurse.

The level 5 nursing associate apprenticeship is a Foundation Degree (FdSc) level qualification awarded by the University of Greenwich, accredited by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and delivered by the University Centre Truro & Penwith in its £200,000 Nursing Simulation Suite.

The innovative apprenticeship allows learners to study a programme awarded by one of the leading nursing universities in the UK without leaving Cornwall.

The graduates studied their apprenticeship while working as healthcare assistants in a variety of settings such as RCHT, Cornwall Hospice Care and GP surgeries across Cornwall and have now moved onto the next stage of their careers.

Graduate Leila Da Silva had been working at GP surgery Carn To Coast for nine years, starting the apprenticeship to pursue her ambition of becoming a nurse alongside her role of healthcare assistant, with dreams of one day qualifying as a nurse practitioner and becoming a partner at Carn To Coast.

Leila commented: “The qualification means I have been promoted to nursing associate and can take on a lot more responsibility in the surgery, including childhood immunisation and cervical smear tests.

“My pay has increased thanks to the promotion and the surgery is sending me back to college in March 2023 to start my level 6 registered nurse apprenticeship, which will allow me to become a fully qualified nurse.

“The apprenticeship has been amazing. I never would have been able to do this before because I have a mortgage and a family. I love my job and the apprenticeship allowed me to maintain my pay throughout the whole course. The college and tutors have been amazing. The tutors are not just lecturers they are friends and I hope to keep in touch with them forever, they were phenomenal.”

Graduate Peter Watt had been working for RCHT at West Cornwall Hospital for 15 years and completed the apprenticeship alongside his role of theatre assistant. Peter said: “The apprenticeship offered a unique opportunity to be employed and have a salary whilst studying.

“My career has altered radically as a result, I have a higher skillset and am now working as a nursing associate. The college and tutors were absolutely incredible, the delivery from the whole team was outstanding, absolutely amazing.”

Kim O’Keeffe, dual director of nursing, midwifery and AHPs at RCHT said of the graduation: “I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge congratulations on behalf of all of us at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust. This is a such a wonderful achievement for the students, who are incredible pioneers in this new role.

Mandy Stevenson, Deputy Head of School: Health sciences (student experience) at Greenwich University said: “It is wonderful to see this first cohort graduate and help boost the nursing workforce in Cornwall.”

The nursing associate apprenticeship is part of a suite of qualifications now available at the University Centre Truro & Penwith, developed in partnership with RCHT, Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust (CFT), GP surgeries and care providers across Cornwall to boost Cornwall’s nursing numbers and service levels.

The University Centre is training over 100 healthcare professionals through senior healthcare support worker (Level 3), operating department practitioner (Level 6) and registered nurse (Level 6) apprenticeships, alongside full-time nursing associate FdSc and operating department practitioner BSc qualifications, all in partnership with Greenwich University.

Andrew Smart, Head of the University Centre Truro & Penwith commented: “Everyone was thrilled to celebrate the success of our first graduates from the nursing associate apprenticeship and we can’t wait to see where their careers take them next.

“The range of nursing qualifications we now offer provide fully local and well-designed pathways creating opportunities for college leavers, existing employees in the health sector and those seeking a career change and are vital to attract and retain talent in Cornwall, supplying future skills and enhancing the front line of our local NHS.”

For more information on nursing qualifications, contact the University Centre Truro & Penwith on 01872 305750 or email

Image: The Nursing Assosciate Apprentieces who graduated in June 2022

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