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    Alex turns his life around with lifelong learning!

    06 October 2022

    Alex Balcon has battled against drug addiction to turn his life around with an Access to Healthcare course at Burton and South Derbyshire college, leading to a degree in Nursing (Mental Health) at the University of Derby and with career ambitions to become a mental health nurse.

    When Alex was at school, he had wanted to join the army and did not enjoy academic study. However, after experiencing a family bereavement, Alex turned to drugs, giving up on his career goals. Instead of joining the army, Alex took on a series of part time jobs to fund his drug habit.

    It was Alex almost taking his own life that made him realise he needed to rehabilitate from drugs and start afresh. Alex’s own experiences in hospital and dealing with mental health nurses had given him an insight into a profession where he could make a difference.

    Alex decided to enrol on an Access to Healthcare course at Burton and South Derbyshire College. After convincing his family and tutors that he was serious about turning his life around, Alex embarked on the Access course which is designed to prepare people without traditional qualifications for study at university. The healthcare pathway consists of classroom and laboratory/practical sessions, independent research, group activities, presentations and microteaching.

    While the course was challenging, Alex was determined to achieve his goal and after completing the Access course, he progressed to a nursing degree at the University of Derby where he is currently undertaking the third stage of the course.

    Alex commented: “I left school with very average grades and didn’t think I would ever go to university. After struggling with a drug addiction, I eventually tried to take my own life as I knew the hurt I was causing my family. After that, I realised it wasn’t the life I wanted so decided to make some big changes. It was my experiences in hospital that made me realise I wanted to be a mental health nurse. 

    “The Access course at BSDC was a lot of hard work but getting the certificate at the end of it made it worthwhile; it got me to where I am now. The course equipped me well for university and I’m pleased to have received job offers from two of my work placements. Putting on my uniform for the first time was such a proud and emotional moment for me; it means a lot to be able to make a positive difference to people’s lives.”

    In addition to his university studies and work placements in mental health settings, Alex has also embarked on a series of distance learning courses via Burton and South Derbyshire College to compliment his degree, including the Certificate in Awareness of Mental Health Problems, Certificate in the Principles of the Mental Health Worker and Certificate in Self - Harm and Suicide Awareness and Prevention. He has recently started the Certificate in The Principles of Dementia Care, and then plans to progress to the Certificate in Counselling Skills.

    Speaking about the distance learning courses, Alex said: “I feel the distance learning courses have complimented my degree. I have been able to apply many of the skills learnt on the courses when speaking to patients. The Suicide Prevention course has made me feel comfortable that not only will I be able to recognise the signs of self-harm and suicidal intentions, but I have the tools to challenge and prevent these from happening. I believe additional qualifications show that not only do you have the ability to learn, but that you are willing to improve yourself.” 

    Contact Details

    Contact Details

    Burton and South Derbyshire College
    Tel: 01283 494400

    Town Centre Campus

    Burton Town Centre Campus, Lichfield Street, Burton on Trent, Staffordshire DE14 3RL

    Stephen Burke Construction Academy

    Construction Academy, 21 Tetron Point, William Nadin Way, Swadlincote, Derbyshire DE11 OBB