The future is bright; another group of nursing degree students from University of Gloucestershire impress their Lilian Faithfull Care hosts.

Our Cheltenham Nursing home, St Faith’s, has been working in partnership with the University of Gloucestershire for over five years offering placements to student nurses studying for their nursing degrees. The latest cohort of students were just coming to the end of their fourteen week placement at St Faith’s when four of them shared their experiences; Kira, Monika, Becca and Takudza, alongside their mentor and our nurse, Karen Barry.

Monika explains,  “We have really enjoyed every moment. We have learnt so much. The team has been amazing – supporting us every single day. Being a student during the pandemic has been hard but those lovely girls [their nurse mentors], Sally Pauline and Karen have kept us safe, they look after us and our mental health. It was the best placement I’ve ever had. I have felt very valued. We’ve seen how the nurses provide good leadership and we are learning every single day. The knowledge I have absorbed is mind blowing.”

Takudza continues “What I wasn’t expecting was the support we also got from other health professionals. The [visiting] Doctors have also taken time to actually explain everything to us, whatever they were doing. It might be explaining the signs of deterioration or talking us through what they are prescribing.”

Becca adds “I hadn’t had any experience of end of life care before coming here and it has opened my eyes as to what can be done and what there is to offer.”

Nurse mentor Karen explains “When the students arrive, for some of them it is their first time in a nursing home, whereas others have plenty of experience.” The students echo this and Becca comments “When I started I didn’t know how to communicate with the residents, I was nervous but I have learnt so much and now know lots of different ways you can communicate.” Takudza added, “Yes, you learn different ways to communicate, we have pictures residents can point to – it wasn’t something I had when working in a previous nursing home.”

What has inspired these students to train to become nurses in the first place? Each of them shared their personal stories which are motivating them through their studies.

Takudza spoke movingly about her inspiration “I grew up in Zimbabwe and I looked after my grandmother when she was ill. Before she passed away ‘you are so caring, don’t just do it for myself but do it for other people.’ It is her that made me think I could do this.”

Becca has also been motivated by her family “My mum is a nurse she has always said ‘you are really caring’. I did my A-levels but didn’t choose university straight away, I didn’t know if it was for me. I did a nursing and midwifery diploma and enjoyed it… I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my mum.”

Monika’s talent for caring was also spotted when she was a young age “As a little girl my mother asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said a wheelchair so I could push people about in one! So I have always been interested in healthcare. After coming here from Poland, I worked in a nursing home and in a hospital. Someone there told me I should be a nurse, but I was doubting my ability. I am 35 and starting later you ask lots of questions especially about how you will pay the bills and manage the course but it’s the best decision I’ve ever taken.”

Kira also has a remarkable story. As full time nursing student she not only has a 3 year old but also a 12 week old baby. The students relate how she still came into moving and handling training when she was heavily pregnant! “Its been crazy!” and she explains what lead her to the nursing degree course, “In my family there is me and my sister, but I have been always the one looking after her. After school I had my own mental health struggles and when I was thinking how about how to look after myself I thought I should care for others. I was a Health Care Assistant and then went for this course.”

It is fantastic to hear the students’ stories and hear how much they have benefitted from their time at St Faith’s but as nurse Karen explains all the supervisors and nurse mentors also really enjoy working with the students. “We’ve got such a lot out of having the students. When we started five years ago we had to learn all about teaching and assessing and we have grown with the students. Every time we learn more about how to help and support them and how to get the best out of them.

Nick Oxlade from the University of Gloucestershire share their perspective;
“University of Gloucestershire have been working with Lilian Faithful Care from the very start of our Adult Nursing Programme in 2017. St Faiths was the first Nursing Home we sent our students to and the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. As a university committed to providing a health and social care workforce for the county and further afield, having a local provider with an established history in Gloucestershire has been fantastic. We have now sent adult Nursing, Mental Health Nursing, Paramedic and Physiotherapy students to Lilian Faithful Care and each time we are heartened by the feedback we receive from students about their experience and from staff about our students.”

The partnership is so successful that Health Education England have invited the University of Gloucestershire to their national conference in July where they will be running a workshop alongside Lilian Faithfull Care. Nick Oxlade explains;

“We will be demonstrating to other placement providers (NHS and Private) and University’s, how to implement placements effectively in Nursing Homes – again this is testament to the success and dedication of the staff within Lilian Faithful Care in their support of health and social care students.’’

Nurse Mentor Karen’s final words encapsulates what a true partnership it is between Lilian Faithfull Care and the University of Gloucestershire;
“We are really proud to be teaching and supporting the future nursing workforce. It’s a part of our job that is very rewarding to see them develop and grow in confidence and skill. It definitely enhances the care we provide.”

The nursing students continue to be an inspiration. All the St Faith’s staff wish them every success in the future and look forward to giving a warm welcome to the next group soon!