Balancing work and life as an Apprentice Audiologist can be challenging. But alongside managing a full-time job and university, with the right support, there is a still some time left for friends and family.

I’d applied through the NHS Jobs website with no idea of what I wanted to do except ‘healthcare.’ I was hoping for inspiration which is what I got when reading the Apprentice Audiologist job role. The interview process consisted of answering questions, delivering a 10-minute presentation and making sure I could clean a slim tube using a cleaning wire. I appreciated the opportunity but thought nothing would come of it until the next day when I received their phone call. Months passed with lots of paperwork until eventually, I was enrolled at Aston Uni and started my job at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The first few months can take time to adjust so I appreciated the support from everyone: friends, family, Gloucester Hospital, Aston University and even patients cheering me on! I work 4 days a week 8am-5:52pm. I get regular allocated study time and training time tailored towards my needs. I began by observing clinics, but my colleagues quickly allowed me to get involved with the patient from audiometry and otoscopy to hearing aid repairs and phone consultations.

I visit Aston Uni once a month for 3 days on average. A few hours travelling up to Birmingham, a few hours of lectures and then I’m on the train back home. This year we focused on the fundamentals of audiology. Understanding how the ear works and being able to apply this knowledge at work has helped me progress although I still have a long way to go (4 more years!).

How to look after an apprentice

First and foremost, the support you provide an apprentice at the workplace contributes tremendously to their success and wellbeing.

We have two other apprentices at Gloucestershire Hospitals which are both a year ahead of me. They have taken me under their wing, and it is nice to have those who understand. Furthermore, the support from all my colleagues has been fantastic. No questions are too much or too silly and asking for help is always accepted. I get regular ‘check-ups’ from my supervisors which focuses on my feelings and mental health. This makes me feel valued and cared for. I would encourage all apprenticeship employers to do the same. If I didn’t have this amount of support, I would find the apprenticeship a lot harder!

Training sessions are focused on me and my learning. This is sometimes with patients, sometimes without. These are important for individual learning development to work on those areas which I may be struggling in. Feedback is seen as important from both the student and trainer to help progress learning. Even if I am not in a training session but am taking part in a clinic, I find that the trainer helps me learn and allows me to take part. My time doing hands-on learning in the clinic is so important to an apprentice. The more, the better!

I’ve found study time valuable, allowing time to link your academic learning to your practical. This also involves understanding when to ask for more study time if needed. You know as a student what you need right now. The more understanding employers are in allowing the student to take charge of their own learning and development (with some guidance, of course), the more benefits the student feels and happier in the workplace.

And finally, understanding how a hospital department works is half the battle! Everyone has their job role and every single person is important in running that department, but we all need help sometimes. Just as others are willing to help me, I am happy to help where I can. Without working as a team, we would crumble.

Take on an apprentice

The number of apprenticeships in the UK is increasing every year. In 2017/18 for levels 6 and 7 (such as an audiology apprenticeship), there were only 11,000 starts but this increased to 22,500 in 2018/19 (HM Government). Apprenticeships benefit all employable age groups, allowing a living wage as well as getting a qualification.

When you employ an apprentice, you are training skilled workers for the future of audiology! 90% of apprentices stay on with their employer after completing their apprenticeship, increasing loyal employees in the workplace. 78% of apprenticeship employers have said there has been an increase in productivity. With the right support, an apprentice can progress and bring new ideas to the workplace.

For an apprentice, the benefits are endless and cannot be listed here, but what really makes a good apprenticeship is a good employer and good support, so make sure you choose the right one!

A big thank you to everyone who has supported me so far and to all my fellow apprentices:

We can do this!