Rachel Wright, registered manager at InSafeHands in Nantwich, who tells us how her service has been supporting local students through workplace placements and why she believes this is so important.
Last year we took the decision to provide placements for college students at our service, as we believe that they are our workforce of the future. We felt that it’s important that we invest in them now, so that they have real-life experience in a working environment. It’s also an opportunity to not just develop them, but a chance for our existing staff to learn from the students, as they will often come with fresh ideas around new and best practice and evidence-based research.
To plan to take on the students, there were several things we had to consider. As well as undertaking all the standard risk assessments, we contacted the students’ colleges to make sure we were covered by indemnity insurance. We trained our staff, to ensure they knew what they needed to show the students, what support they might need and how they should be supervised. In light of COVID-19, we also needed to make specific arrangements around training the students in things like the donning and doffing of PPE.
As part of their placements, students have been coming into people’s own homes with the support of a qualified carer. As well as helping with meal preparation, they have supported the provision of medication, and while they have not been administering it themselves, they have been able to gain an understanding of the importance of timely medication, stock control and making sure supplies don’t run out. They’ve been learning about what happens when someone’s diet has been compromised and how we support people to get well, how we keep people living with dementia safe, how we make referrals to GP and district nurse partners, and how we work with other partners such as speech and language therapists, physios and occupational therapists.
The pandemic has also meant that we are discussing with students the importance of using our services digital platforms, such as in the development of care, dietary and medication plans, and how as we come out of the lockdown restrictions, we start to incorporate safe and meaningful social activities.
The placement activities are not only important in demonstrating the different and important ways that we safeguard the people that we support. What we’re trying to do is give the students an understanding for when they (hopefully) go in themselves as practitioners, to give them an idea of the sorts of resources they have available to them. We want to show them the ‘how to dos’ of the job that they may not see in the college setting.
The benefits of taking on students have been great. It’s helped keep our staff motivated and boosted their morale, as they feel that the students working with them are bringing new insight and value to the provision of care. Our care workers can often feel isolated, so they’ve found the teaching element of the placements has been a great opportunity to combat this and really utilise and demonstrate their skills and knowledge. We’ve also found that it’s helped us to challenge old concepts and question how we might be doing things, which we feel has been really healthy for our service.
We’ve also had some great feedback from the students themselves, who have told us that they have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and that it has helped them to grow in confidence, and I’m delighted that some have already gone on to take on roles within our service.
Having been a student nurse myself, I feel passionately that students should have an opportunity to develop their basic skills in a safe and supervised environment before they go into roles in care. For me this is how it should be and I’m incredibly proud of the work of our team and students in making the workplace placements so successful. I’d definitely encourage other services to take on students!