Healthcare apprenticeship pays off for Sara

Posted on in The trust

An inspirational woman has bagged her first job after a successful apprenticeship with South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust despite being profoundly deaf.

Sara Khan, 21, from Middlesbrough, recently completed her Level 2 healthcare support services apprenticeship at the trust and is now working at The James Cook University Hospital full time as a ward clerk.

The apprenticeship is one of six delivered by the trust’s training and development team.

Sara, who is profoundly deaf, lived in Pakistan until she was 14 years old before moving to England with her family seven years ago. After leaving college, Sara took part in a Health Education project, Project Choice, an initiative at the hospital where she could experience what it is like to work across different departments in a healthcare role. From this, she realised that she wanted to work at the hospital.

Sara Khan

In August 2018 Sara enrolled on an apprenticeship with South Tees, working as a ward clerk.

“As a ward clerk I book in patients, discharge them, take phone calls and sort hospital records,” she said.

As part of her apprenticeship Sara was assigned a dedicated training advisor who conducted regular reviews to check her progress and help her keep on track. And she had study days once a fortnight.

Sara completed her apprenticeship and now works as a ward clerk on ward 2 at James Cook, supported by a communication support worker.

Last year, Sara was named Apprentice of the Year at Middlesbrough Council’s Young Persons Celebration Awards. The awards recognise young people from across the borough who have overcome difficulties to achieve success in the work place.

Sara said: “When I first came to England I could only speak Pakistan Sign Language so it was hard for me to communicate. Through a local college I learnt British Sign Language.”

The apprenticeship has taught Sara a lot. She said: “I learnt how to communicate with other people, about confidentiality and about the different systems I need to use. I learnt that healthcare wasn’t for me but admin was and that you should go with what is right for you and never give up trying.”

Sara has turned teacher too, helping her colleagues on the ward and her assessor to learn basic sign language. And she wants to use her experience to help others. She said: “I would like to help people coming from Pakistan for the first time who are deaf and need someone to translate for them.”

And Sara has advice for anyone who may be thinking about doing an apprenticeship: “I can’t believe I am deaf and I am working in a hospital. Don’t let things that have stopped you in the past put you off moving forward.”

Julia Frost, training advisor at South Tees said: “I am extremely proud of what Sara has accomplished. She has shown that whatever barriers you may come across with hard work and dedication you can achieve. Sara has opened my eyes and mind to people with different disabilities and made me understand what their needs are and look at different ways as to how I can support them whilst on their apprenticeship.

“I am now learning sign language because I want to be able to communicate with Sara directly. The trust has been extremely supportive in me doing this and I am now on to my Level 3 in British Sign Language.

“An apprenticeship is a great way to earn as you learn with nationally recognised qualifications. And as Sara has shown, it can be a springboard to employment.

“We deliver various apprenticeships to students of all ages and backgrounds in clinical and non-clinical roles, including Health Care Support Worker levels 2 and 3, Customer Service level 2, Business Administrator level 3, Team Leader / Supervisor level 3 and Operational Department Manager level 5.”

If you are interested in completing an apprenticeship at South Tees, contact the team on 01642 854744 or email