The University of East Anglia has set up an e-mail mentoring programme to help 14-15 year-olds from deprived backgrounds who have expressed an interest in entering nursing and other health professions realise their dreams.

Students from UEA’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, along with students from the School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice and the School of Allied Health Professionals, will mentor forty teenage members of Great Yarmouth’s Health and Social Care Academy as part of the Aim Higher programme.

Alexandra Cole, Access Officer at the Access and Admissions Office at UEA, told E-Health Insider: "We were approached by the Aim Higher healthcare strand, and asked if we could help a programme. At the same time we were developing an e-mentoirng project." The two ideas worked well together, she explained.

All the monitoring will be anonymous, and goes through a central hub designed to weed out any identifying information, such as mail headers. "If you go to send an email and it includes a telephone numbers, or a swear word, it will bounce back. You can only work within the boundaries that have been set by the programme," said Cole.

The e-mentoring system will operate over the Firefox web browser, although Cole pointed out that any web browser would, of course, be suitable for the purpose.

The reason for the anonymity is because many of the students are from families who have traditionally never entered higher education. Anonymity was requested by Great Yarmouth Health and Social Care Academy for this reason, and also because many of the teenagers were concerned about the views of their peers. For this reason, it was decided to make the mentors anonymous as well.

One of the teenagers’ mentors, a 37-year-old nursing student, said: "From the age of five my ambition was to become a nurse but I struggled at school and always lacked confidence. Hopefully, being able to give young students a boost in confidence and to let them know that everybody has something to give will encourage them to aim for their dreams."

Another mentor commented: "If just one child is inspired and given the chance to realise their academic potential, I have achieved something."

As well as nursing, the students at Great Yarmouth have also expressed interest in other areas of primary care, as well as administrative and support roles within the NHS.

The Aim Higher programme was set up in order to help "raise the aspirations and motivations of 14-19 year olds" from backgrounds under-represented in higher education. The forty students come from five secondary schools in the Great Yarmouth area.