Sam Bell worked tirelessly through the COVID-19 pandemic as a key worker, juggling not one but two apprenticeships. She tells us about the stabile and understanding qualities her TA, Emma Jones, brought to her experience and her aspirations to work for the NHS now she’s qualified.
Hello Sam! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, my name’s Sam Bell. I’ve been working as a health care assistant at Hengoed Park for five years.
How long have you been learning with us?
I started my Level 2 in November 2017, and I started my Level 3 about 18 months ago.
Did you enjoy the apprenticeship?
I did, actually. There were a few difficult moments when I was balancing life, work, and the qualification aswell. But Emma convinced me when I thought ‘I’m not doing it anymore.’ She said ‘come on now, you’re doing it anyway. What’s the point in not getting the qualification at the same time?’ And I thought ‘she’s right, why not?’
It is difficult trying to juggle everything.
Most of the time, it’s okay but when you’ve got birthdays or other events coming up in your personal life – I just found it overwhelming.
Was there anything in particular that you really enjoyed about the apprenticeship?
I’m not sure if it was because I get on with Emma really well, but I never felt uncomfortable during the observations. She’d say, ‘look how much you actually do, and you don’t realise you’re doing it as part of your daily life.’
It makes such a difference when you get on with your Training Advisor, doesn’t it?
It really does. When I started my Level 3, it was with a different company, and I had a word with my manager. I said, ‘I’m not doing my Level 3 unless I’m working with TSW or Emma.’ It worked out very well for me – two weeks later, Emma gave me a call. That’s the only reason I did the Level 3.
Emma will be chuffed to hear that! Has the apprenticeship improved how you do your job? Can you see parallels between your job and the course?
100%. It’s been good for understanding procedures and policies, so I know I’m following all the guidelines.
Were there others learning with you?
There were quite a few girls from my company studying with TSW, but they were working with other training providers too. For Level 2, there were three of us that started at the same time. For Level 3, I was the only one to start at that particular time because it was a new qualification for Emma to be teaching too.
Did you feel part of a community while you were learning?
Yeah I did, because I could talk to the others and ask ‘how are you doing this?’ and Emma kept me really well informed too. We’d always have regular chats and texts, so I was never out of the loop. I had 100% support there.
Let’s talk about Emma…
I think I’ve been through more with Emma than I’ve been through with most of my colleagues. I can’t speak any highly of her. She gives 100% in her job and always goes above and beyond.
Because she’s so easy to approach, and she’s got one of those voices that helps to calm things, when I felt overwhelmed, she’d always say, ‘You can do it! Let’s just take our time and do this much this week.’
And by the time I’d finished talking to her, I thought, ‘I’m fine, I can do this.’
I’m always saying to my colleagues, ‘if you’re going to do this course, ask for Emma.’
I don’t think she gives herself enough credit for how well she works, especially doing a new qualification because we were almost learning together.
She always made sure she came in for my appointments when I was working so I didn’t have to come into work on my days off too.
You were working as a frontline worker through the pandemic. How was that? Were you doing that while you were learning?
Yes, doing that while I was learning as well!
I always say that I love pressure and I love challenges. The more pressure I’m under, the better I work – I’m not sure how.
The beginning of the pandemic, I can honestly say, was the roughest three months of my life yet. I was more scared of bringing the pandemic home to my family than I was working with it.
What motivates you to learn?
It shows me that I’ve got enough insight and knowledge to make sure that my residents are well cared for and not at any risk at any time, from anybody or anything. I know that my residents are happy and healthy, and it helps me know I’m doing my job well.
Do you think doing an apprenticeship has changed your life in any way?
There’s so much legislation and policies and procedures in healthcare, I don’t think I’ll know everything because it continually changes. But there were a few moments where legislation did change, and I could challenge my supervisor – it gave me the confidence to say ‘no’ because I know that’s not right.
What advice would you give to people thinking of taking up an apprenticeship?
Definitely do it because you’re doing the job anyway. You’re doing the best job you can for your residents and for your family too because it gives you insights into how you’ve got to look after adults and children. What I’m learning is for vulnerable adults, but it runs parallel with looking after children as well, doesn’t it?
What are your career aspirations? Where will we see you in 10 years’ time?
In 10 years’ time, I’d love to be working for the NHS. Because I’ve got my Level 3 now, it’s easier to get into other healthcare sectors too. Maybe nursing? By doing the course, it’s opened doors for me. I’ve got the basis and the core there if I want to go into anything else now.
But right now, I’m sitting back and chilling a bit.
You sound like you deserve it! We’re excited to see where you go from here, Sam.