NRS Healthcare’s first Occupational Therapy apprentice has graduated from Coventry University saying it was the ‘best decision she ever made’.

Kayleigh Bowler, aged 29, was joined by her parents and manager Tracy Frowen for her graduation ceremony held in the city’s Cathedral.

Kayleigh, who started working for NRS Healthcare’s Integrated Community Equipment Service in Kent in 2017, said:

“It was a privilege to graduate in Coventry’s stunning cathedral and was great to catch up with my cohort. It was quite surreal when we talked about how far we’d come since meeting in the first few days and weeks of our course. I want to say a huge thank you to NRS for supporting me to qualify. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

The BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy degree apprenticeship is a four-year course, where students can study in their workplace. Kayleigh said:

“I can’t describe the last four years as anything other than a journey. When I first started it seemed like such a long road ahead, but NRS has been incredibly supportive throughout and time just flew by! This course gave me the knowledge and expertise to understand how important occupations are for health and wellbeing and therefore how to understand clients in a more holistic way. It also develops you as a person. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my confidence has improved significantly.

“If I was to pick out my highlights, I’d say I loved learning about anatomy – the names of all the bones in the body and the complexity of the components that form our joints and allow us to move. Another is the support from my fellow apprentices; we all understood the pressures and struggled at different times but helped each other through.”

Kayleigh felt the apprenticeship route benefitted her more than the traditional degree option. She said:

“Studying alongside full-time working is definitely a juggle, but I really felt it was beneficial, not having to wait to go out on placement to start applying the learning to practical situations. I noticed myself starting to question my reasoning when giving advice to prescribers or clients which showed I was really understanding people as occupational beings and the importance of finding the correct equipment or intervention for them, rather than just giving advice.”

Kayleigh also enjoyed a wide range of placements. She said:

“I was lucky to experience such a diverse range of practice areas. I worked in prisons, a mother and baby unit with the perinatal mental health service and also on a surgical ward split with outpatient hand therapy. Having enjoyed the anatomy, I loved my time in the hand therapy clinics seeing a person’s recovery and how OT intervention increased their movement allowing them to get back to work or other meaningful activities. I loved working with new mums on the unit helping them to transition into motherhood. The apprenticeship only further ignited my passion for occupational therapy and all it can achieve.”

Rachel Hutchinson, Clinical Excellence Director for NRS, said:

“I am incredibly proud of Kayleigh and her determination and resilience over the last four years. Kayleigh is our first ‘own grown’ Occupational Therapist and what a success story! We have all watched her grow in knowledge and confidence and to see her now in the role of Clinical Regional Manager is such a pleasure. We have another four colleagues going through the apprenticeship route to qualification currently and hopefully many more to come. As an Occupational Therapist myself it gives me great pleasure that we can contribute in a small way to providing a fantastic next group of therapists.”

Since completing her apprenticeship, as well as having progressed into the role of Occupational Therapist in Kent, Kayleigh is also the Clinical Regional Manager overseeing the clinical teams in the South. She said:

“I’m loving this role. During my time at NRS, I’ve been part of the clinical side of several mobilisations and I’ve always felt strongly about wanting to help others settle into the role and make sure we’re delivering the best service by using best practice when it comes to our processes, so this is very exciting for me.”

Not having to study evening and weekends, has meant Kayleigh has a lot more free time. She said:

“It’s amazing to pick up a book to read without feeling guilty!”