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New apprenticeships at Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine open doors

A new partnership between the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine (BCRM) and Weston College has created an apprenticeship route which enable trainees to qualify as Assistant Practitioners while they learn ‘on the job’ what it takes to work in the specialist field of fertility treatment.  

For Billie-Louise Whewell and Cara Williams, both 24, their apprenticeships at BCRM give them the chance to earn a foundation degree which could be the stepping stone to a full nursing degree and a career as a registered nurse. 

BCRM, which has the highest success rate in the South West for IVF with 33% of embryos transferred resulting in births, will deliver 80% of the training ‘on the job’ at the clinic. 

Rebecca Palmer, BCRM’s Fertility Nurse Manager, said: “The training programme is an exciting project for us as it is the first time we have trained Assistant Practitioners. With fertility being such a specialised area, the trainees will gain skills and knowledge they would be unlikely to obtain from a more general nursing or healthcare course at a college or university. 

 “The academic part of the two-year course will be conducted by Weston College and on successful completion the trainees will be qualified as Assistant Practitioners which is the nursing role that bridges the gap between a Healthcare Assistant and a Registered Nurse.” 

Billie-Louise Whewell, who comes from Eastville in Bristol, says she was delighted when she learned she’d been accepted on the new apprenticeship scheme. 

“I’ve been working as a healthcare assistant on a complex care ward at Southmead Hospital since I left school,” said Billie-Louise. “This course will utilise my existing skills and I’ll learn new ones too. We’ll be working alongside world-recognised experts in the field of fertility, and having transferred to BCRM in June I already know that I love working in the clinic.” 

Cara Williams, who comes from Cheddar, is transferring to the clinical side having started off in NHS administration. 

Cara said: “The prospect of becoming an Assistant Practitioner is very exciting, and the foundation degree the apprenticeship leads to will enable us to go further still and enrol directly into the second year of a nursing degree course and progress to become Registered Nurses. 

“It’s a fantastic opportunity – all about constantly learning and developing – and it’s a real privilege to be able to work at BCRM throughout. It’s already clear they’re really dedicated to delivering good quality training to their staff, and it’s such an inspiring environment to work in.” 

Throughout their training, Billie-Louise and Cara will study flexibly alongside their frontline work in the clinic which will allow them to put their newly-acquired knowledge and skills into practice immediately, for the positive benefit of patients. BCRM offers both private and NHS patients a full range of fertility treatments, as well as assessments and tests to understand why couples may have problems getting pregnant.

More details about the services offered are here: fertilitybristol.com with live Zoom ‘open evenings’ running twice-monthly to inform women and couples with fertility issues of the services on offer.  

Image: L-R Cara Williams, Rebecca Palmer, Billie-Louise Whewell