ELLA Mason started at Salisbury District Hospital (SDH) as an apprentice nursing assistant on the stroke unit just over two years ago.

In September she is planning to go to university to study nursing, and hopes to return to SDH once qualified.

Currently a senior nursing assistant in elderly care and stroke medicine, she said: “I’d never done care before - I had worked for the NHS for quite a few years in admin jobs and always been interested in care work. I thought I’d have a go at it, I went onto the NHS Jobs website and came across the apprentice role.

"I spent time on the ward and did an NVQ Level 2. It was really interesting and a great way to do it, spending time with staff and patients.”

Ella was an apprentice for just under a year before qualifying as a nursing assistant. Eight months later she became a senior care assistant.

“There are four senior care assistants on the ward - we get to do ward rounds with the doctors every Monday and Friday which is really interesting, you get to learn lots,” she said.

“I have done bank shifts on other wards but mainly work on Farley ward which feels like home.

“Our patients need slightly different care to patients on other wards. They need help with everything - eating and moving about. Quite a few are unable to communicate properly, they have pictures or a keyboard to spell out ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

“We have a speech and language therapist who visits every patient and tells us what’s the best way to communicate with each patient.

“We can also find out information from their families.

“Anybody can have a stroke, there are cases of babies, children and people in their early 20s having one. If you have a blood clot, it can bring on a stroke.

“The younger ones don’t tend to stay as long as elderly patients who are a bit frailer and take longer to get better.

“It’s a very responsible job, you’re helping people that are not able to help themselves.

“The hours are long and it can be difficult. If you’re a nursing assistant, you’re looking after a bay of about six or seven patients in the morning and then that tends to double as staff halve in afternoon so you have 12 patients to look after alongside a nurse. When a patient comes in they’re really poorly, you see them through as they get better every day and hopefully see them go home which is a very nice feeling.”

Over the last few months Ella has been doing an access course at college for two evenings a week in Southampton.

“The course is made specifically for adults who want to go into nursing and don’t have the correct qualifications,” Ella said.

“It involves biology, health studies and human development.

“I’m hoping to go to Bournemouth or Southampton University - if it’s Bournemouth then my placements will be here at SDH and then hopefully after qualifying, I can return. Staff at the hospital could not have done more to help.”