For National Apprenticeship Week 2023, we spoke to STEPS’ apprentice nurse associate , Zoe Johnson, to see how she has found her role since embarking on the Nursing Associate Apprenticeship at The University of Sheffield in March 2021.

About Zoe

I began my journey with STEPS Rehabilitation in August 2018 after leaving my job as a Care Assistant.  Initially I joined as a Rehabilitation Assistant and then worked my way up to senior, then lead Rehabilitation Assistant.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, many staff, including myself were up-skilled in certain areas (peg, tracheostomy, and cough assist), to assist the nursing team during this extremely difficult time.  This made me reflect on my role and prompted me to take the ambitious next step in my career to become a nurse.

I am so lucky because STEPS have been hugely supportive of me making this career move.

Q- How have STEPS supported you in your career move to Nurse Associate

I am studying a two year Nursing Associate Apprenticeship Foundation Degree at the University of Sheffield). The course is a 2 year course and I will be qualifying in March 2023.  Further course details can be found at

Q Have you worked at STEPS alongside your training?

This course has allowed me to continue to work at STEPS during my training which has given me great insight into neurological conditions, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injuries, orthopaedic and other complex trauma injuries. During this time, I have completed placements at the Northern General, Royal Hallamshire and Children’s Hospitals in Sheffield. I especially enjoyed the Children’s Hospital which was a change from adult nursing. STEPS Rehabilitation clients can often be as young as 16 years old and so this experience allowed me to adapt my skills to work with children as well as adults.

Although the hospital placements allowed me to experience different types of nursing, I was often eager to return to the friendly, family ethos of STEPS.  

Seeing clients through their rehabilitation journey at STEPS is very rewarding.  STEPS has remained a great support to me throughout my training and having a Clinical Educator to mentor me has helped my inquisitive mind and has developed my clinical skills. This has given me the drive to continue to learn and expand my clinical knowledge.

I am also supported by STEPS Nursing Team who come from a variety of backgrounds and offer me learning opportunities and this has been exceptional. The Interdisciplinary team within STEPS have also been supportive of my training and have allowed me to shadow sessions and have a direct link to nursing, for example, the Speech and Language Team have discussed the link of dysphagia with aspiration and physiotherapy giving chest physiotherapy to clients with respiratory issues which aids our person-centred care approach.

Q –Skills for Life – has this course helped you develop your skills and knowledge for a rewarding career?

Reflection and accountability are two main skills I have embraced during my course by following the NMC code

Other attributes I have learned are to be calm, compassionate, and professional, although these are also naturally part of my personality.

I have been able to build upon my ability to communicate effectively with sensitivity and compassion and to manage relationships with people and this is central to the provision of high-quality person-centred care. 

STEPS Rehabilitation has allowed me to build on my communication skills to develop other ways to help communicate with clients that may not be able to communicate verbally.

Q – What are your future plans? When I qualify as a Nursing Associate I plan to work on my preceptorship (which is a period of structured transition to guide and support all newly qualified practitioners from student to autonomous professional, to develop their practice further) to expand my depth of knowledge and then enrol on the top up course to become a registered nurse.