Background Healthcare providers need to reach out to school students to attract entrants (NHS England, 2014), to bridge the growing gap between rapidly increasing demand and the shortfall in workforce supply (NHS Improvement, 2016). Student career choices need to be influenced as early as possible (National Careers Service) through diverse and positive experiences in order to improve recruitment and retention (NHS England, 2014). The quality of work experience offered in hospices varies widely (Barnard, 2016) with some hospices daring to invite school students to directly experience patient care in a supportive manner.
Aim To provide school students with direct access to patient care in a supportive environment.
Method School students aged 17+were invited to undertake a supported six- month work experience placement on a hospice inpatient ward, gaining a care certificate. Student feedback, plus pre- and post- placement questionnaires were evaluated.
Results 24 placements offered over 12 months to students from a range of academic ability. Ten completed; two left for personal reasons; twelve are currently on placement: 22 currently plan to work in care. All students embraced opportunities to learn, surprising staff with their initiative, resilience and willingness to care. Students provided assistance with personal care, feeding patients, emptying catheter bags. They were exposed to death, coping remarkably well with the emotional aspect, utilising support of review meetings to share their feelings. A wealth of qualitative was collected demonstrating overall positive experiences:
• ‘I used images on Ipad to understand he wanted jelly and soft pears. He was ecstatic, and gave a thumbs up.’
• Commenting on a patient photo: ‘Nice to see the person behind the illness.’
• After witnessing a death, one student told her grandparent, ‘You’ll be in safe hands Nan, don’t worry.’
• All recognised the experience helped them to appreciate life even more.
Conclusion Valuable life skills, communication techniques and insight were gained by students.
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