The Social Care Placement project

2nd October, 2023

by Jackie Heffer, Education Lead at Cornwall Primary Care Training Hub

A Social Care Placement programme has increased the variety of learning opportunities by hosting student nurses in residential homes in Cornwall.

The pilot project, which took place in two residential homes - one in Penznace and another in Perranporth  - offered high-quality learning opportunities whilst providing the students with an understanding of the complexities and diverse work in residential care homes and the opportunity to work alongside the multidisciplinary team.

Residential homes are usually unable to host students, as they lack the registered nursing staff to provide supervision. However, this programme, which was created in partnership with Plymouth University, has demonstrated that residential social care in Cornwall could provide an effective and sustainable placement area, with the potential for significant numbers of training placements for future health professionals. Evaluation of the project has found that the impact extended beyond the students to the care staff and their residents too.

'An invaluable privilege'

Students themselves recognised the significant leaps in their development brought about by the programme. One student nurse said: “It would be difficult to be within the residential home setting and not realize that prioritising people is everything. Having the time to understand residents in the home setting is such an invaluable privilege. All that time contributes to the building of those therapeutic relationships, a skill that will take me into the future of my career.”

The shared experience between students and the care home staff offered nursing students the chance to see the reality of learning opportunities within social care and that the nature of care delivered was often very different from their preconceived ideas.

An enhanced culture of learning

This collaboration has also brought innovation to the residential homes, with new clinical knowledge being introduced via training and daily discussions with nursing students leading to an enhanced culture of learning for all staff. Staff in carer roles reported that having student colleagues prompted a renewed passion for their own career development, reflection on their own practice and a sense of excitement at being part of a collaborative project. Residents very much enjoyed the presence of students in the homes and were not shy in demonstrating their appreciation for the support that they received.

Break from stereotypical ideas

On a larger scale, we aimed to break from stereotypical ideas surrounding the health-social care divide and explore with students the view of social care as a mechanism for mediating the use of secondary health services. Closer collaboration between health and social care sectors and the workforce may mitigate some of the current problems facing the NHS.

Today’s students are the workforce of tomorrow. Training placements have significant potential to change outdated perceptions, enable a shared understanding and ultimately provide richer integration for colleagues in both sectors - for the benefit of all health and care service users.

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