Sunday, 20 September 2015

Its the last day of my holiday, and I'm ready to Step Up to the future

There is always an exception that proves the rule. When sleeping, the human body naturally uses about 90 minute sleep cycles. For me I usually have 4 or 5 sleep cycles depending on what time I go to bed – I wake up at 05.00 every day. If you happen to wake up for any reason during one of these cycles you are going to feel extremely tired. Strangely although I break all the 'sensible rules' about getting a good night’s sleep, (don't drink caffeine 6 hours before going to bed; don't watch TV or use your phone or computer as the white light throws off your circadian rhythm sleeping; and no more than 1 or 2 drinks of alcohol) usually I have no problem going off to sleep and waking up refreshed in the morning.

However, last Friday morning, I woke up for no particular reason just before 03.00. It seemed a little selfish to me that I should be awake and W was fast asleep, so I woke her up and we made a cup of coffee, and turned the TV on. The programme playing was the recent Panorama programme 'Could a Robot Do my Job?'. I missed seeing this first the time around and it was totally engaging. The take home message for me was the need to think very, very differently about what the future might look like. New technology, particularly digital technology is developing at an exponential rate (I was amused at the presenter’s earnest explanation as to what 'exponential' meant). Even if the time of watching the programme was slightly bizarre, i found thinking about the future possibilities were fascinating.

Possible futures again featured in my thinking last week. Personal futures for sure, but more often it was the futures of others that captured my imagination. Tomorrow, over 1000 new students will join the School, ready to start their journey towards a higher education qualification. Their futures will be shaped by their own efforts and the changing world they find themselves in. It’s an exciting time for all involved in each of these personal journeys of hope and fulfilment.

Many of these students will be undertaking a degree that leads to a qualification for professional practice. The nature and scope of professional practice in health and social care is also rapidly changing. The Panorama programme featured a number of examples of how new technologies are changing health care treatments and the prevention of disease and accidents. Such changes can bring with them real challenges as to what we imagine or believe might be possible. Equally, as educationalists, it can be a real challenge to think differently about how we might prepare people for the changing nature of professional practice.

As a School we have been very successful in a number of areas. Our Counselling and Psychotherapy team recognised the changing nature of their world 4 years ago and developed and produced a startling different programme that prepares students to start practice as a qualified professional from the day they finish the course rather than having to gain additional hours of supervised practice first. Over the last 3 years the programme has grown its numbers from 50 students to over a 100 a year.

Likewise, in 2010, our Social Work colleagues took the decision to pilot a new way of preparing individuals for social work practice. This was the Step Up to Social Work programme, a rather controversial approach that in an 18 month programme produced qualified social workers. Its now a 14 month programme, but it is not a programme for everyone wishing to become a social worker (you need to have a 1st class or 2:1 first degree). However, the programme has been very successful. We will start Step Up 4 in January 2016, and since 2010, we have taken 240 students through the programme. In the same period we have taken 600 students through the more traditional undergraduate social work programme, and nearly 800 through the traditional postgraduate route.

And as I mentioned in last week blog post (and thanks to all those of you who have read the blog and sent your comments), the School is currently part of the national discussion on what the shape of caring, and nurse education, might look like in the near future. You can catch up on the debate here. What is clear in the North West of the UK is that there is a great desire to bring many of these ideas forward as soon as possible. The various regional representations of the Department of Health in all its elements have long looked to the North for innovation and best practice.  

In the School I think that equally there is the desire to develop more flexible approaches for nursing programmes and we have a golden opportunity to do so with the support of colleagues in practice, the NMC and our commissioners. I am hoping that in 5 or even 10 years’ time someone, perhaps someone who can’t sleep, will watch a programme of how nurse education has evolved and developed and recognise the exponential change brought about here in Greater Manchester, which provided the vanguard for others to follow.

As this weeks blog pictures show, I really was on holiday last week. I walked and walked, I sat and watched the world go by and generally slowed the pace of life right down. And last night it was great to enjoy the last 60th  birthday celebration for W and I this year. A comfortable and relaxed evening shared with some lovely people. Right now I feel relaxed and re-invigorated ready to step up to the mark on Monday.