HEALTHCARE and nursing associate apprentices are celebrating finishing their courses following one of the most challenging periods for the NHS.

Over the past 18 months, 50 Bournemouth and Poole College students have completed their apprenticeships to become fully qualified healthcare professionals.

This follows working full-time throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, having started their courses just months before the pandemic began.

One student moved into a caravan to continue her studies during the peak of the pandemic to protect her vulnerable husband who was shielding.

Liz Brown, 58, a Level 3 Senior Healthcare Support Worker apprentice based in Shaftesbury Community Hospital, said: "I have always loved being thoroughly challenged in all my job roles and this apprenticeship has been a worthy distraction during such a difficult period. I love working with and helping people and it’s been incredible seeing the positive progress patients make while working with them and beyond.

"The positive feedback I’ve received has given me such a sense of achievement, and I’ve loved immersing myself in this role. I’m looking forward to finishing and seeing where this experience takes me next."

The students worked on hospital wards and within the community to help battle the increased pressure on the NHS while completing their courses.

During this time, Bournemouth and Poole College has seen an increase in applications for its healthcare and nursing associate apprenticeships, with numbers doubling over the past two years.

Bekki Burgess, apprenticeship delivery manager at the college, said: "It’s been wonderful knowing that Covid-19 hasn’t slowed down applications for these vital courses. After such an intense period for healthcare workers up and down the country, it’s amazing to see people aren’t deterred and want to help people in need now more than ever.

"Our students have done such an incredible job throughout the pandemic and they should feel immensely proud of what they’ve achieved."

The healthcare and nursing associate apprenticeships (based at the North Road site of the college) go up to a Level Five and are available for any students over the age of 18.

The placements are based at Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole, and Dorset County Hospitals.