Northumbria Healthcare Branch
Maria joined the Bridges to Learning team in November 2013, when the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust became the newest workplace to harness ULRs to promote learning and development to its workforce. Her priorities in her first few weeks have been on building relationships and getting up to speed in understanding the Trust’s workforce priorities as well as embarking on her own learning fast track with the help of the project’s experienced ULRs in other NHS Trusts. The recent UNISON National Conference in Liverpool was the turning point for Maria, as it was there that she learned of the Bridges to Learning project in the North East and the forthcoming opportunity for a new ULR to join the team: "I couldn’t believe my luck, because I’ve been interested in working in healthcare and with children since I was fourteen. Before I joined the Trust as a Healthcare Assistant in February 2013, I spent two years working as an early years practitioner and teaching assistant after my degree, which was in Childhood studies and Advice, Guidance and Counselling. I love my work as a healthcare assistant, as I especially enjoy the patient contact, and now my ULR role will allow me to help others into learning." Maria has worked hard to get all of the planning in place so that she can launch the project in January 2014, and now she is raring to go. "I am particularly keen to work with the 300 apprentices across the Trust, as they are a key factor in how the Trust plans to address its issues of the aging workforce, and as I am still young myself, I hope to inspire them to get involved in workshops and other activities that will broaden their knowledge and help them see the kinds of opportunities there will be when they complete their apprenticeships. I think it is hard for anyone, but especially young people, to understand the huge number of different roles and opportunities in healthcare; in fact I am still learning about them myself. At the same time, I am thrilled that the Bridges to learning project will be working in partnership with the Trust to support all of Northumbria’s Healthcare staff in addressing their learning and development needs. I want to do this by asking staff what their individual needs are, particularly the Bands 1-4 staff, so that we can improve their job prospects and earnings." This is where Maria’s skills and knowledge in providing impartial advice, guidance and counselling are going to get their chance to flourish: "The other Bridges to Learning ULRs have helped thousands of staff in their trusts and local authorities to get back into learning and I can’t wait to join them. Even when I was at university I took courses in Sign Language and Mental Health Awareness at Newcastle College. I suppose it was easy for me though, as I’ve always been involved in learning; so I want to encourage the apprentices to take every chance they get to keep their own self development going. I hope that I can help other staff across the Trust to increase their confidence and get back into learning too so that they aren’t phased by the increasing qualification demands for their role. "I never thought the joint honours in guidance and counselling I did would have been of use to me but it looks like it is going to pay huge benefits after all!"