Coronavirus: We continue to remain open and you can contact us as normal regarding our learning and development solutions for your employees. Please be aware it may take us longer to respond than usual. Find out more about our coronavirus response.
Dr Mercia Spare has an inspiring career story to tell. Having left school with one CSE and college without any A-levels, she started her working life in a series of low paid industry jobs. Those jobs were okay but she knew that she wanted more from work. She wanted a job where she was caring for people, where she was making people’s lives better. She knew she wanted to be a nurse. “Nursing was my pathway,” she says.
And now here she is, many years later, Interim Chief Nurse at Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT). Mercia didn’t take the traditional route into nursing, but that hasn’t stopped her from having a very interesting, varied and successful career. Those experiences and her route into nursing have made her a very strong advocate of nursing apprenticeships and the Trust’s new nursing Academy.
The way that we’re delivering our Academy in partnership with the OU very much fits with my own personal journeyDr Mercia Spare, Chief Nurse (Interim), Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust
The Academy is a new scheme being run by KCHFT, which aims to provide nursing training within the community. The scheme went live in February 2018 and currently, nearly 50 students are being supported by the Academy in nurse associate and registered degree nurse roles.
So what was Mercia’s route into nursing? When she decided she wanted to become a nurse there was a two-year enrolment waiting list, so she went for the enrolled nurse entry instead, which only had a one-year waiting list. Two years of training followed and she became a registered nurse. Then she did a conversion course. “I loved what I did but I knew there was more I could give. There was more I could do for people that came into my care, so I did my conversion course which meant I was on part one of the register.”
Being a qualified nurse opened a lot of doors for Mercia, enabling her to take on a variety of roles around the UK. “I worked in London as a transplant nurse. I’ve worked up and down the country. You get to see the joy in people’s lives when they have babies, when they get great news, but you also have the privilege of being with people at the end of their life. And for me, that’s an honour – to be the person who’s helping that patient.”
A motorcycle accident precipitated a shift in focus – Mercia went back to studying, this time to do an undergraduate degree as a mature student. Next was a PhD. “So I’m called Doctor nurse now!”
With all of her hands-on experience, her years of clinical practice and her qualifications, Mercia has been able to pursue different career options within nursing. This includes stints in central government and in regulation. She has led a national improvement scheme that does research from bench to bedside. “So you come up with an idea and you see it make a difference for people who use your services.”
Before coming to KCHFT as Interim Chief Nurse, Mercia was working in an NHS improvement role, supporting organisations to really improve the quality of care that they deliver.
I think if you cut me in half I’d say nurse in the middle like a stick of rock. The people that I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had – you wouldn’t really have anywhere else in the NHS. Nursing has just been such a fantastic career for me.Dr Mercia Spare, Chief Nurse (Interim), Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust
It’s been a fantastic career for many other nurses too, Mercia says. She has met lots of nurses who have similar stories to tell – stories about getting into nursing the less travelled route and going on to have very successful, rewarding careers.
Apprenticeships enable people to earn while they learn, making them accessible to a wide range of people. Mercia thinks the Academy’s partnership with the OU will enable more nurses to have great stories to tell, like hers and the other nurses she has met. And by drawing in a more diverse group of people and offering a different training experience, Mercia thinks you get a better, more skilled workforce as a whole. “I think they enhance what we do at KCHFT – they bring a different view. It’s a different way of doing things. It’s a different way of training to be a nurse and I think that makes us richer as a workforce.”