INNOVATIVE approaches to ensure high quality student nurse placements continued across Newcastle during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have been shortlisted in this year’s Student Nursing Times Awards.
Claire Winter, a clinical educator based in the central operating department at the Freeman Hospital, and the health visiting / school nursing team in Newcastle’s out of hospitals and community services were named as finalists in the national awards.
Already well regarded by colleagues for putting their students at the forefront of their own learning and encouraging them to reach their own potential, every effort was made to ensure the students learning was not compromised because of the pandemic.
Executive Chief Nurse Maurya Cushlow said: “While the last 18 months have been really difficult for the NHS, the pandemic posed an added challenge to our teams working supporting nurses in training, many of whom stepped up to play their role in our Trust response.
“Ensuring that the student learning experience was not compromised because of COVID-19 was critically important. Every effort was made to ensure high quality placements continued across our hospitals and in the community thanks to some creative thinking and innovative approaches which have received excellence feedback.
“I’m delighted both Claire and the health visiting / school nursing team including – Jacqui, Dawn, Gillian and Heather in Newcastle’s out of hospitals and community services – have been recognised for the work they do which is well deserved and I hope both do well in this year’s awards.”
The Finalists – Claire Winter (Practice Supervisor of the Year category)
Since embarking upon her clinical educator role eight years ago, Claire has developed a student development programme described as the ‘gold standard’ by Northumbria University senior lecturer, Lloyd Howell.
Her nominator Emma Shepherd said: “Claire asks each student to identify their own learning style and then together they tailor an individual learning plan drawing upon the strategies and resources identified.
“By going the extra mile Claire gets the best out of all her students whilst, importantly, giving them the responsibility to direct their own learning. As she herself says, “I will give them the boat, the paddle and a push, but it is up to them to navigate their journey.”
Claire’s well-established placement programmes were adversely affected at the height of the pandemic so she had to rapidly rethink how to offer an engaging high standard alternative so that her students could continue to meet their learning outcomes at a time of significant clinical pressure.
“It was really important for me to ensure that I provided them with additional support as they were understandably anxious in practice at the time,” said Claire.
“During the peak of the COVID-19 surge we had 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students from several local universities – all had something important to contribute and my aim was to break away from the usual powerpoint-style presentations and engage them in interactive learning.”
Claire set up scenario and role play workshops where students could explore potential situations, what could go wrong, and the appropriate action to take.
“We ran moving and handling workshops where students volunteered to be the patient,” says Claire. “We placed them into different positions and sought feedback.”
“We played games relating to lean working, exploring how to make a theatre run more efficiently and the impact of human factors. We visited the plant room to see how theatre ventilation works. We did interview training and practice and explored the importance of policies, learning how they support patient safety.”
Claire describes “a positive buzz in the room during these sessions”, and the feedback and discussion content was really positive and of a high standard – so much that after the surge relaxed, the students did not want the workshop sessions to stop!
“The pandemic has undoubtedly left many of us with memories of negative experiences,” added Claire.
“However, it’s just as, if not more important to recognise the positives that were borne out too. I’m really proud of how the practice placements have evolved so well during the last few months, and how positively the students responded to the new approach.”
The Finalists – Jacqui Smith, Dawn Wilson, Gillian Franklin, Heather Ransom (Student Placement of the Year category – Community award for their innovative approach to teaching student nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic)
The pandemic had a huge impact on our community teams and presented huge challenges to our 0-19 service so it was split into four teams:
- Safeguarding and vulnerable families
- The client contact team
- The single point of access team and
- Those reallocated back into other community teams
Visiting was scaled back to only essential visits with staff wearing full PPE and all student health visitors were taken out of community practice with some working on hospital wards.
With no face-to-face lectures, and online communication tools becoming the norm, student nurses faced a huge upheaval to their training and so an alternative was sought to enable them to attend their placement virtually.
This is where Co-TECS came in – Collaborative Technology Enabled Care Services – rapidly set up in partnership with colleagues at Northumbria University and practice placement facilitators in the Trust, and used to deliver one-hour teaching sessions with regular breaks from screens.
Staff used a range of role play, case studies, videos and power point presentations and interaction with students took place via the chat boxes and hands up in Teams.
Despite the sessions being run remotely and online, valuation of the sessions was extremely positive. Role play of real life scenarios made them interactive and students said they felt there were actually watching real visits, as well as detailed storytelling by engaging presenters.
Practice placement facilitator Gill Franklin said: “To support placements during the pandemic we took a blended approach to provide a rounded experience for our students which worked really well. We’re absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for the award which is down to the hard work of the team during a very difficult period of time.”
The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on Thursday 4 November.