A new school of nursing in North Devon is allowing local people to gain a nursing degree closer to home.

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT), Petroc and the University of Bolton have teamed up to support people to study for a nursing degree locally rather than travel out of area.

The first students started in September, with 20 nurses beginning their placements at NDHT, gaining hands-on experience with support from experienced nursing staff.

Another 21 students are set to start in November.

The students’ placements will see them gain experience on the wards at North Devon District Hospital, in South Molton Community Hospital, and with the community nursing teams caring for patients in their own homes in Barnstaple, South Molton and Holsworthy.

Deputy chief nurse Lucy Bates said: “Whilst there are workforce challenges in the NHS nationally, we face a particular challenge in running one the most remote hospital in mainland UK. Our new school of nursing opens up the opportunity for so many more people to start a nursing career right here, instead of moving and often staying outside of the area.

“This is fantastic news for the northern Devon community and builds on all the other workforce programmes we are developing to ‘grow our own’. We are nurturing our existing staff to develop their skills and helping more local people start their career in healthcare.”

The University of Bolton has set up a satellite site at Petroc, where teaching is delivered, and the students are completing clinical placements with NDHT.

Following three years of study and successful completion of the assessments, the students will attain a BSc (Hons) Nursing (Adult) degree and will be able to register as a qualified nurse.

Dr Trish Houghton, head of the school of nursing and midwifery at the University of Bolton, said: “The School of Nursing and Midwifery in Bolton is extremely successful, with our courses being voted one of the top in the UK for both teaching quality and student experience, according to The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide for the past three years

“Our staff are tremendously enthusiastic, dynamic and experienced in their fields. They have worked hard to develop exciting, state-of-the-art programmes of study and are passionate about giving people the theoretical knowledge and practical experience to excel within the nursing profession.

“We enjoy hearing the many amazing stories from students, both past and present, and thanks to this new collaboration with NDHT and Petroc, we’re looking forward to hearing amazing stories from our students in North Devon.”

As well as gaining hands-on experience through a series of placements with NDHT, the students will train using a new simulated bedded environment that has been developed at Petroc’s North Devon site. This will complement the simulation suite at North Devon District Hospital, which has sophisticated mannequins and clinical simulation equipment.

Shaun Kershaw, head of the Petroc Health and Care Academy, said: “This is a historic moment for northern Devon’s health economy and the sustainability of its nursing workforce.

“It truly delivers a remarkable opportunity for individuals who have aspired to a career in nursing, but have been held back due to circumstances surrounding travel, family commitments and additional moving costs.

“Our collaboration with NDHT and the University of Bolton demonstrates what can be achieved when forward-thinking and dynamic organisations with common values and shared purposes work productively together to bring solutions to complex situations.”

Students thankful for local link

Student Lyndse Steward said: “Training with the University of Bolton (UOB) at the Barnstaple campus has made it possible for me to follow my dreams and become a nurse.

“I have been in the health and social care sector as a healthcare assistant for 17 years. I am passionate about what I do and I have wanted to train to be a nurse for many many years. However having children meant that travelling to Plymouth or Exeter to do my training wasn’t an option for me and I thought I would have to wait until my youngest was 16 before I could think about it. That would mean that I would be 50 before I could begin training and at that age I would have had to let go of my dreams.

“UOB having campus at Petroc has made it possible for me to pursue my dream and train to be a nurse. I am 44 and still have lots of years work ahead of me and I am so thankful that I will be a nurse for the remainder of my working years.”

Another student, Emma Doherty, added: “I wouldn’t have been able to do the degree if it wasn’t for UOB Satellite Centre. I have always wanted to do my nursing but it’s never been possible with having two young children and the requirement to travel to Exeter or Plymouth. The satellite centre has made it possible for me to pursue my dream career.”

Student Debbie Cann said: “As I have a family, my training would not have been possible if it weren’t for it being local. We are very fortunate that we have the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust supporting us in our training through Bolton University.”