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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Back to the future for nursing cadet programme

Back to the future for nursing cadet programme

Posted on Wednesday 20th August 2014

Lesley Carruthers, deputy director of nursing

A former nursing cadet who is now one of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trusts’ most senior nurses is championing the cadet programme’s return to the region next month.

Thanks to collaborative work between North Cumbria, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Lakes College in Whitehaven, the first cohort of 25 cadets will be starting in September and working closely with nurses from across north Cumbria.

From Workington, Lesley Carruthers, deputy director of nursing at North Cumbria Hospitals, began her career 40 years ago as a nursing cadet at West Cumberland Hospital and remembers the experience with much affection.

“As I experienced myself at 16, being a nursing cadet was a fantastic way of learning what life was like on the wards and a way of developing life skills as well as basic nursing techniques. I am absolutely delighted that we’ve been able to work with partners to bring the programme back as this is a real opportunity for the region to grow its own nursing workforce.

“I wanted to be a nurse from the age of 14 when I had cared for my ill grandfather until his death and then, when we relocated my nana to Cumbria, who was going blind, which gave me a real understanding as to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

“So at 16 I left Workington Grammar School to become a nurse cadet which was a fabulous way to gain the experience you needed and become familiar with hospital surroundings and colleagues.”

The nursing cadet programme was superseded by different types of nursing training and qualifications in the mid-1970s but it was always felt that being a nursing cadet offered an opportunity to access experience in a clinical environment that could greatly support recruitment into the profession.

Nikki Bridson-Nelson of Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is the project’s development lead and is responsible for setting up the cadetship following a careers fair at the Lakes College. She said: “The cadetship is such a good opportunity to get people interested in pursuing a nursing career and nurturing our own talent right here in north Cumbria.

“The new cadets will experience a range of nursing roles as the placements will rotate to cover the acute hospitals, community hospitals, district nursing, the short term intervention team, which provides care for patients at home avoiding the need for hospital admission, as well as other specialist services, such as neurology.

“They will be able to get a real flavour of the range of nursing posts they can choose to train and further specialise in following the two year cadetship.”

Kath Armstrong a tutor at Lakes College said: “The new cadets are made up of a cross section of people from 16 year olds to more mature (over 19 years old) candidates, in fact a third of the cadets this year are classed as mature students. We have a mocked up ward here in the college thanks to support from the NHS trusts and this will provide a training hub as the new cadets will not be introduced on to actual wards until after Christmas.

“After two years, cadets will have enough UCAS points to qualify for the degree level university nursing course or perhaps go in a slightly different direction to follow further on the job training to become a healthcare assistant and eventually become a fully qualified nurse.”

The north Cumbria nursing cadets will be exposed to clinical environments at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and community hospitals in Cockermouth, Maryport and Workington, as well as working in the community helping to deliver healthcare services to people close to their homes.

They will be mentored by senior nursing staff throughout their cadetship and experience the fundamental principles of good, compassionate nursing care. 

Given the well-documented recruitment problems the region has faced in recent years, it is hoped that the new nursing cadet programme will help the Trust grow its own workforce with cadets choosing to build their careers in the hospitals where their nurse training began.