Sunday, 18 May 2014

Stepping Up to Educate Rita and/or Roger, Are We Ready to Change?

Last Monday was International Nurses Day, and this was celebrated in many different ways by nurses across the globe. Twitter was on fire with 1000's of messages and pictures. I was intrigued by the number of nurses who shared photos of the badges they received from their training schools at the point of completing their programme. Most of these pictures were from nurses who qualified in local Schools of Nursing. These were independent schools that were not embedded in the University system as they are today. It was a huge display of affection, pride, and a sense of achievement, all symbolically captured on small enamelled metal badges.

On Tuesday my colleagues and I worked together with Salford Students Union to look at how we might improve the placement experience for our Social Work students. It is often an area of the programmes we run that cause problems for everyone. Unlike our NHS partners, who have a contractual responsibility to provide placements for our nursing and midwifery students, and in that sense are truly partners in facilitating the students learning, social work placement providers have no such responsibility. So every placement has to be negotiated individually. With nearly 200 students starting their social work programme with us each year, this is not an insignificant task!

However, sometimes these partnerships can really work well and, it was great to see Sheffield Council report this week that the Step Up programmes has helped them recruit and keep high quality Social Workers. The Step Up (to Social Work) programmes started in 2010, and our School was one of just two providers of this new and innovative approach to training social workers. At the time many local authorities across the UK were not able to recruit social workers willing to work with children and families. The Step Up programme changed that. 

It is not for everyone, but the programme which originally ran for 18 months (now 14 months) enabled individuals to gain their qualification to practice much quicker than the more traditional programmes. The other aspect of the programme is that it is a genuine partnership between practice and the University. We are now on our Step Up 3 programme and one of our partners is Sheffield (the lead authority for the Yorkshire and Humberside regional partnership). How Social Workers are to be educated and trained in the future is currently a hotly contested debate. We are keeping an open mind. Our belief is that the one size/approach does not fit all potential social work students. Whichever way it goes it’s going to be different from what we do now.

Friday, we had Ian Cumming (Chief Executive, Health Education England), Kate Nealon (Non-Executive Director and Deputy Chair Health Education England) and Jan Sobieraj (Managing Director of the NHS Leadership Academy) come to the College. We were able to show case some of our research around digital health and well-being, use of social media, and the work we are doing across the university on dementia and design. The presentations were great and captured the imagination of our guests. 

What was also clear from the questions during the day was that the education and training of future health care professions is changing, and changing rapidly. The traditional 3 year degree programme for nurses will change, and I think will change very quickly. Our students today are already demanding more. They don’t want lectures that are essentially nothing more than what they can independently find out – many students today want is debate, discussion, and the opportunity to challenge and be challenged. They use social media to communicate, can create interactive presentations that captivate and they still understand that they are working with people. Can we as educators rise to this challenge? I think listening to the presentations on Friday the answer has to be yes. Sometimes it’s good to spend a day with colleagues hearing what it is they do what their ambitions are and share the passion.