To improve recruitment and retention for the nursing workforce, Rowcroft Hospice developed a sponsorship programme for trainees.

Project & outcomes


Project overview

Applicants for registered nursing vacancies at Rowcroft Hospice have declined over the last few years and there is strong competition with NHS nursing roles in the area. This, along with a backdrop of a national shortage of nurses caused Rowcroft to take action to increase its nursing workforce by raising awareness of the hospice among students and adopting a ‘grow our own’ approach.

Rowcroft now offers student nurses a bursary of £4,250 per year for up to two years, followed by a permanent Registered Nurse role with the hospice upon qualification. The bursary includes engagement with the hospice, access to the education programme and connections with clinical leads throughout the period of study. 

Two nursing associate apprenticeship roles have also been advertised internally.


In the first year of the programme, four student nurses have been sponsored – each will complete at least one placement with the hospice. Two of the student nurses have requested bank work with the hospice.

Two nursing associate apprentices have also been appointed.

There has been strong coverage of the scheme in the local media, which has raised awareness of the hospice as an employer.

Facilitators, challenges & advice


Key facilitators

The hospice has worked closely with Plymouth University to develop the bursary. This helped with marketing/raising awareness of the opportunity. The university were also able to provide module marks and references from personal tutors to help with the selection process.

There is a formal agreement with the sponsored nurses, which helps create security on both sides. This also enables the hospice to protect their investment and provides flexibility for the future job offer.

A private donor paid for the first year of the bursary.


The only challenge was needing to be flexible to accommodate interviews with the student nurses’ study and placements timetables.

Tips and advice


The bursary only takes student nurses from year 2 onwards. This is because there is a relatively high drop-out rate in the first year of nurse training. The bursary is paid in two payments per year, paid direct to the sponsored students.

As term time finishes in early July, it's worth ensuring you have enough lead in time to advertise, receive expressions of interest, interview and gain personal tutor references.

A personally written letter to students inviting their interest was well received.

Future development


The Board of trustees has agreed to repeat the sponsorship programme for a second year.