A 22-year-old who works at Wythenshawe Hospital, in South Manchester, has described how she fast tracked her way to a successful career and saved thousands of pounds in university fees, through a degree apprenticeship.
Olivia Hamer is now one of the youngest Specialist Cardiac Physiologists in her department at Wythenshawe Hospital’s North-West Heart Centre, which is one of the leading specialist sites in the UK.
She says: “My training here has been phenomenal and the steepest learning curve I’ve ever experienced. I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship, if you’re considering your options.”
“During my training, I got a percentage of a full-time wage and the remaining money funded my course”
“I’m not in any debt now, that’s the bonus. I didn’t pay for my studies, so that’s the advantage for most people.”
But Olivia has worked very hard to get where she is today. During term time she was training in hospital three days a week, doing one day at university then she was given an extra study day, by her hospital managers.
“It was a full-time degree, so I was doing all of that on top of coming to work 3 days a week.
“But the benefits are massive because you get way more experience than you would if you just go on placement for a few weeks at a time.
This year’s theme for National Apprenticeship Week revolves around trainees getting ‘Skills for Life’, which Olivia says she achieved and they will stand her in good stead.
“I feel like I’ve been helped, in practical and in life terms. Before I started working here, I wouldn’t have had a conversation with a stranger. I wasn’t shy but coming in at 18, it’s a very difficult time to arrive in an environment like this.
“But I’m now a confident member of the team and have a great rapport with patients and colleagues. I’ve found my interpersonal and communication skills have developed hugely.
“I would also be confident and able to deal with an emergency, if it came up within the community.”
Olivia got A and A* grades when she studied Maths, PE and Psychology for her A levels at Bishop Heber High School, which is a comprehensive in Cheshire.
“When I was at school, I thought that healthcare was for me. I’ve always had a compassionate and caring side. After undergoing lots of work experience, alongside doctors in a variety of departments, I realised that I wanted to specialise in cardiology.”
She’d applied for a course at several universities, but withdrew her applications when she was given the position as an apprentice.
“I happened to look on the NHS jobs website and realised that there was an apprenticeship for the course that I wanted to do.
“I interviewed super early for the job. I was in year 13 and hadn’t even got my A level results by then. It was just based on my predicted grades.”
Olivia graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in July 2023 with the best overall mark and a 1st Class Honours in her degree course, on top of having a job at the end of her training.
She was also asked to present her dissertation findings at the Heart Rhythm Congress, which is a national cardiology conference.
Now Olivia’s average day involves providing a wide variety of diagnostic tests; from ECG or cardiac device checks, all the way up to supporting the more complicated procedures such as stents and pacemaker implants.
“Specialising in cardiology right from the off, has really allowed me to get into the technicalities and intricacies of the heart and cardiovascular system.”
“Working as part of a large multidisciplinary team also means that I get to work alongside nurses, doctors and radiographers, to provide a super high quality of care for our patients. We achieve much more together.”
Olivia is now looking to sit more accredited exams in May, which will train her more specifically in pacemakers and Internal Cardiac Defibrillators (ICDs). Another promotion is also on the cards for her after that.
She says: “My aim is to learn as much as possible and be the best physiologist I can be.”
Nick Bailey, who is Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust’s Director of Corporate Workforce, said: “At MFT we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to develop their skills and expertise.
“As Olivia demonstrates, an apprenticeship sets people up to achieve their long-term career aspirations.
“During National Apprenticeship Week, (5th-11th February), we are proud to celebrate the achievements of our apprentices.”