The University of Exeter apprenticeship aims to address the shortage of NHS staff

Thanks to an apprenticeship scheme, a woman who became a mother at 18 and missed out on university has graduated with a degree in radiography.

Rachael Bradford, 32, is part of the inaugural group of students who successfully finished the degree apprenticeship program at the University of Exeter.

The program provides an alternative pathway to radiography, allowing students to work while studying, following the “earn while you learn” model. This initiative aims to alleviate NHS staff shortages.

Ms. Bradford, who has two children aged nine and 14, expressed her desire to work in a patient-fronted clinical role despite spending years in various positions within the NHS.

“I had a keen interest in ultrasound, but I couldn’t find a course that would accommodate my family life. When I learned about the apprenticeship, I immediately applied,” Ms. Bradford shared.

She further stated, “Despite the challenges, especially during the pandemic, the hard work has been rewarding, and it’s fulfilling to pursue my dreams.”

Ms. Bradford expressed her ambition to undertake additional training and become a certified sonographer.

Ms. Bradford is one of 26 students who will be graduating in July, having dedicated her efforts to clinical work throughout the pandemic.

The course participants, believed to be the first of its kind, come from diverse backgrounds, with an average age of 35.

According to Demelza Green, senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, the NHS is currently facing a staffing crisis among radiographers on a national level. She emphasized that programs like this degree apprenticeship open doors for a diverse range of individuals who may not have previously considered pursuing university studies.

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“This groundbreaking program is reaching out to a demographic with a wealth of life experience, which is a valuable approach to tackle the shortage of radiographers we are currently experiencing,” Demelza Green explained.

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