Background As part of on-going service improvement plans, an innovative, collaborative community engagement project was established with school students to showcase the hospice as a positive place where people with life-limiting illnesses can live well, helping dispel myths that hospices are depressing, gloomy places where people only go to die.
Aim (i) Raise students’ awareness and support their learning about what hospices do. (ii) Extend community relationships and engagement with Woking Hospice as a charitable organisation.
Methods The local high school was approached in January 2018 with the idea of establishing a ‘twinning programme’ where six students would visit the hospice and engage in four follow-up workshops to develop a presentation on their impressions. Students also completed a short pre- and post-visit questionnaire to elicit their beliefs about hospices and subsequent learning.
Results The initial questionnaire indicated limited awareness of hospice care and the associated business functions but immediate verbal feedback after the first visit saw a greater appreciation of the range of healthcare professionals employed, the services offered and the ‘feeling’ of being in the hospice building. The students created a poster and short video with the theme of ‘It’s not just…’ to summarise the stereotypical views of hospices and counter these with their experiences and interviews with hospice staff. In addition, the school has held a fundraising event and three students have organised work experience placements.
Conclusion The project work is to be displayed publicly at the school and hospice. The acknowledged benefits so far include students’ development of core skills in observation, communication, reflection and teamwork while hospice staff have gained valuable experience in interdisciplinary co-design and opening the hospice to a younger audience. It is hoped that further school twinning projects will be established and stimulate more students to consider the hospice as a work experience provider.