As a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic, nursing student placements had been suspended. As restrictions lifted, discussions happened between Leeds Community Healthcare and the university and decisions were made to recommence placements for students in Spring 2021. I was asked to review processes and prepare staff for students to return to placement within the nursing service where I work, ICAN (for children with additional needs).

I worked with our local Learning and Development Team who provided a link to the local university as well as support and advice with regards to our plans, and some update training for mentors now known as Practice Supervisors.

Once students were allocated a placement they received a welcome email, together with a student welcome pack containing information about the placement, services delivered and practical aspects of community working (how to get to work, what to wear, lunch and beverage arrangements and shift patterns). This was updated in advance and proved helpful for students – some of which were coming on their first ever clinical placement.

We discussed and devised a blended learning approach for students which focused on a specific aim for each week of their placement with us. A ‘mock’ timetable was devised to support practice supervisors with planning the timetable for the students and to ensure students were offered a balance of clinical, theory and both directed and reflective learning. The students were in their placement base observing clinics, meeting staff, and discussing their roles, as well as participating in the growth monitoring of children attending clinics (where possible). They had scheduled time to accompany nurses and health visitors during telephone and video consultations, as well as carefully planned home contacts. The directed learning and reflective discussions were then themed around this.

Staff had previously written, narrated and recorded short webcasts for parents which included supporting your child with sleep, autism, communication, toilet-training and other topics. And, although these were aimed at families, we were able to use these as a tool for learning – encouraging students to watch a 15-20 minute presentation and then link it to their in-base learning and writing of a reflective piece about their learning and experiences. At the end of each week, a meeting to facilitate ‘reflective discussion’ and feedback was scheduled on a Friday afternoon with the aim of consolidating and reflecting on learning, identifying new opportunities to meet their objectives and clarify any queries they may have.

Despite some challenges, such as  Covid-19 restrictions and IT (due to the different NMC standards for the different cohorts), we were able to provide a positive learning experience for the students and the staff very much embraced and enjoyed having students back in the team.

Student feedback included:

  • Their perspectives of community nursing had changed greatly and they both said they felt it was a positive and rewarding place to work and would certainly consider community nursing as a career.
  • ICAN (Integrated Children’s Additional Needs) staff are friendly, welcoming, and supportive staff, especially in nursing and they said that they felt the nurses ‘wanted’ students to be there as part of the team.
  • They thought the induction information received prior to placement was especially helpful in introducing them to the service, role and who/when to meet on their first day.
  • They enjoyed all aspects of the nursing team and the work they were able to observe/participate in (in particular continence nursing and the art of completing and documenting a nursing assessment, the clinic nursing team for hands-on measuring and weighing of children under supervision, autism assessments and complex development assessments, multidisciplinary working and the challenges of remote working and video calls.
  • They felt the balance of face to face and remote working was ‘great’, and enjoyed the opportunity for self-reflection and guided learning.
  • They said the placement could be further enhanced with more opportunity to sit in with paediatricians but are aware that medical students need access to this too. They recognised that smaller consultation rooms limited this as social distancing needed to be maintained for safety.
  • They also said the placement could be further enhanced with opportunity to do more home visits and school visits but again reported they are aware this opportunity is currently limited due to Covid-19 restrictions.
  • They said that they had been able to meet some of their learning objectives and felt that their learning will very much enhance their hub placement in the acute setting (one student was moving onto a paediatric surgical ward and another was going to a paediatric oncology ward).
  • They said they could see how hard we work as a team, how we support one another and go ‘all out’ for our students give them the best experience.
  • Feedback that we have more than fulfilled their expectations, they had a really great placement experience and enjoyed the blended learning approach.

Sharon Underwood, Clinical Team Lead for Nursing – ICAN East Hub

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