Helen Vickery and Ashleigh McBride are part of the integrated learning and education team at West Suffolk NHS Trust. In this blog, they discuss how their student placement mentorship programme and student forum work to retain students and support their health and wellbeing.
At West Suffolk NHS Trust, we are incredibly proud of how much emphasis we place on ensuring students have a great experience whilst on placement. The support we offer students goes far beyond that of our peer mentorship programme and student forum, but these two programmes are a great opportunity and support for students.
We believe that this support we give to students on placement leads to high student retention rates.
Our peer mentorship programme is a great opportunity for students from different universities to integrate and share experiences. The meetings are hosted by two peer mentors, who tend to be senior students. They will either deliver a session on a topic of interest or as an opportunity to have a general discussion. We’ve witnessed that these meetings benefit students as a source of support, but also serve as an opportunity to share good practice amongst the universities, as it might be that one university is offering training that others are not.
These meetings vary in regularity, but we try to ensure that when the bulk of students are on placement, they are offered meetings bi-monthly. We are explicit that these peer mentorship meetings are confidential except for when a patient safety issue is identified. Time for a debrief is essential and should there be an issue that requires more exploration or escalation then we will support the student, involve them in the escalation process, and give feedback as to the outcome.
Given that the peer mentorship programme is a confidential opportunity for students to discuss issues, we also offer students the opportunity to discuss their concerns with the organisation directly. We hold a multi-professional student forum on a quarterly basis that is open for any student to attend, though in practice this tends to predominantly be nurses and midwives. These forums are led by the chief or deputy chief nurse, or head of education should they not be available, set questions are asked of the students. We also use this forum as an opportunity to remind students of how they can raise issues beyond this forum. For example, to report any discrimination that they or another member of staff has witnessed or experienced.
We want to ensure that students issues are being followed through appropriately, so we make time in the forum for feedback on concerns or issues. Providing safe and supportive spaces means that lots of different platforms are essential and now we are offering a one to one bookable time with students in line with the principles of the professional nurse advocate programme.
We believe that by having this private safe space for students to discuss issues they feel supported and valued during their placements. This is reflected by our incredibly high student recruitment rate where 95 per cent of students stay at West Suffolk NHS trust to begin their careers.
Our entire ethos is to support students as if they were any other member of staff and ensure that all the same resources are available to support their health and wellbeing. We believe that the above is reinforced by ensuring we are an active presence in the students’ lives whilst they are on placement with us, we try to ensure at least one member of the team is visiting students and staff daily, and we make it clear to any student they can continue to contact us for help and guidance even after completion of the placement.
If you would like to discuss the student peer mentorship programme or the student forum, contact Helen Vickery, deputy clinical education lead at West Suffolk NHS Trust at Helen.Vickery@wsh.nhs.uk.