Powys Teaching Health Board wins Inspire! Award for supporting student nurses to learn and train within the local community

A commissioning health board in Mid Wales has won a major award for helping increase the number of nurses able to stay in their local communities while studying.

Powys Teaching Health Board is one of seven health boards in Wales and has been awarded the ‘Workplace Change Makers’ award at this year’s Inspire! Awards in recognition of its work to address workforce development in rural communities in Mid Wales.

The health board had previously struggled to recruit and retain nursing staff because of the lack of opportunities in the area, resulting in many having to leave the county to gain their nursing degree.


Katelyn Falvey, Powys Teaching Health Board’s Head of Organisational Design and Workforce Transformation, acknowledged this and worked with the Open University in Wales and the commissioners on a joint approach to secure an option for candidates to take up employment and their nursing degree locally.

Katelyn said: “I started talking to the Open University in Wales in 2021 and spoke very openly about the obstacles we were faced with. Because of our large, rural setting and the fact we don’t have a university within our footprint, we were struggling to offer degree-level academic opportunities for people within Powys.

“This meant that our ability to attract and retain newly qualified nurses was challenging.  Often people from within the local community would opt to leave the county in search of further education across Wales, or even across the border to England, and they wouldn’t come back for many years, if ever.”


To address this, Powys Teaching Health Board and the Open University in Wales secured additional health board funding and the agreement to utilise the Welsh Government funding differently to recruit people from within Powys into newly created, paid nurse training roles.

The aim of the project was to attract Powys people to take up employment with Powys Teaching Health Board and, as part of that employment, be supported to undertake the pre-registration nursing degree programme part-time with the Open University in Wales.

This provided an opportunity for local people to stay in Powys and gain a career in nursing supported by the health board.

The initiative generated so much positive response from the local community that the health board received well over the number of applications they could accommodate with the limited number of available places.


Katelyn continued: “One of the reasons the initiative was so successful was because there hadn’t been an option available like it before. The new Aspiring Nurse training roles meant that candidates who previously encountered barriers to accessing university now had a local provision to study and train while getting paid.

“We ended up seeing a real mixture of people applying. We had school leavers, right through to more mature people with homes and families who didn’t have the option to leave.”


In addition to creating new roles within the community, Powys recently launched its Health & Care Academy of Learning which is part of a Wales-wide initiative to increase local access to education, training and development across the health and social care sector.

Within this newly developed academy, a clinical skills and simulation suite was developed which is used to enhance the learning and development of the clinical workforce, including Powys Teaching Health Board’s aspiring nurses.


“Lots of our student nurses have commitments, and some people also just don’t want to live in a city and are more content in a rural setting. It was therefore important to us to offer a local solution, creating the new Aspiring Nurse training roles along with robust pastoral support and an environment that supported and enhanced the students’ learning experience. The Powys Practice Education Facilitator team were integral to the success of the project and were mobilised to help support the students and their practice supervisors and assessors.

“These staff members are invaluable in ensuring the students have a really positive experience during their years as student nurses in Powys. They work hard to ensure the students get access to excellent practice learning placements in Powys as well as providing timely pastoral support to our local and visiting students,” said Katelyn.

Powys Teaching Health Board is one of 11 winners to be recognised at the 2023 Inspire! Awards. Coordinated by the Learning and Work Institute with support from the Welsh Government. The Inspire! Awards recognise those who have demonstrated a commitment to never stop learning. Each Inspire! winner demonstrates how learning can offer second chances, help create new career opportunities, build confidence, and help communities become vibrant and successful.

The Inspire! Awards will take place this year on September 14th and celebrate the achievements of exceptional individuals, community projects and organisations.


Majella Kavanagh, a professional lead in nursing at the Open University in Wales who nominated Katelyn and the team for the award, said: “Katelyn and her team have embraced the concept of distance learning and how it can be delivered close to home. They have targeted their local communities and engaged with us and the opportunities we can offer, ensuring learners don’t have to make difficult decisions to leave their communities or be put in a position whereby they cannot achieve their aspirations.

“Katelyn’s vision is one of working together to impact communities positively, and she and her team deserve this award for the difference they are making to nursing and for creating positive futures for their communities.”


For adults in Wales keen to start their learning journey, in-person taster courses and online sessions will run throughout September and during Adult Learners’ Week (18th – 24th September), with advice and information available locally to inspire people to take up learning as a way of increasing their employability.


Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said:

“Congratulations to this year’s Inspire! Award winners and nominees. It’s incredible to see so many individuals of different ages, from varied backgrounds, and with a range of abilities overcoming personal challenges and becoming role models for us all.

“The Inspire! Awards are a fantastic platform to showcase learners who have gone above and beyond to turn their lives around and succeed in their careers. Thanks to their hard work and dedication, this year’s winners have shown how learning can help pave the way to personal and professional success.


Joshua Miles, Director for Wales at Learning and Work Institute, said: “The Inspire! Awards serve as a reminder of how important it is to never stop learning. We live in a world that’s changing rapidly. Between the impact of the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and emergence of new technologies, nothing stays still for long. Learning helps us adapt to this change and ultimately benefit from it.

“If we keep learning and improving our skills throughout our lives, we can continue to increase our job prospects and are more likely to secure a promotion or be able to change careers. We also know that learning is good for our self-esteem and mental health, making us feel more linked to our community.

“Our Inspire! Award winners are a testament to how learning throughout our lives can help us deal with life’s challenges. As we celebrate our winners, we hope that their stories can inspire more people across Wales to take part in courses throughout Adult Learners’ Week.”


To find out what’s going on during Adult Learners’ Week and for personalised advice on your own learning options and the support available, get in touch with Working Wales on 0800 028 4844 or search www.workingwales.gov.wales.

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