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Giving staff a good experience

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Northampton General Hospital cares greatly about its students and its staff experience – because it knows the impact that has on patients. And that’s why it won a Student Nursing Times Award for placement

Northampton General Hospital nurse

“I believe we have to provide students with a first class customer experience, because when students start paying for their course fees in 2017, we need to deliver a great service to and for them,” says Gillian Ashworth, clinical placement facilitator at Northampton General Hospital.

The trust is already doing an impressive job with students, having been shortlisted as a national finalist for the Student Nursing Times Awards for placement of the year and Partnership of the Year with the Open University earlier this year.

Ms Ashworth’s opinion has credibility. She has has been at the trust for almost six years and is a huge supporter of Northampton General – and not just because it is conveniently an hour from London, Birmingham and Cambridge.

She says: ”When I came for my interview, I was impressed by how friendly and approachable everyone was, and I got a distinct sense of leadership and professionalism from my immediate manager and that was echoed through the team. That team effort helps with general resilience – when things come along that you don’t expect. I think it’s because you have the sense of everyone pulling together.”

The trust has launched specific recruitment guidelines focusing on student nurses, so students about to qualify get their first choice of where they want to work without undergoing an interview.

”Nurses will go to acute medicine if they want, rather than being placed where there is a vacancy. Ward sisters undertake the recruiting so they  acquire the right skill mix for their wards,” she says.

”Daisy badges” are given to nurses after they undertake a substantive role at the trust, along with white epaulettes on their uniform to engender a sense of belonging, says Ms Ashworth. She adds: ”It also indicates that these nurses are newly qualified and so  reminds staff of this.”

The care for newly qualified nurses is outstanding. The trust makes sure they are supernumerary when they commence their six-month preceptorship.

”We have done a lot of work to make the hospital welcoming to students and new staff,” says Ms Ashworth. ”We  receive a lot of feedback from students who say for example   it’s a happy and welcoming ward and that’s probably the initiation of the 15 steps, in addition to the hard work that has been done to make the wards welcoming.

The trust works with the Open University and the University of Northampton, and Ms Ashworth goes through the application process and interviews prospective students alongside  other professionals in the trust.

The trust is implementing a new model of placing students called Placement Learning at Northampton (PL@N) and is half way through the pilot of that on one surgical and one medical ward.

In this the student is overseen by a day coach, who is not their mentor, but is a registrant.

”This is going very well,” says Ms Ashworth. ”Early anecdotal evidence  indicates that patient, student and mentor experience has been improved. Patients feel more cherished and cared for, mentors feel less pressured, and students feel that they are really embracing the nursing role and  are fit for purpose as a qualified nurse.”

The trust aims to roll this out in another six wards by October.

”By 2017 when commissions go and students have to pay for fees, students are our customers, so we have to look after them.

We give them set days of clinical practice attendance so they have the option  to  have a second job and enjoy a better work-life balance. They don’t work bank holidays but can work weekends.”

Students also have an “hour of power” where they go off the ward and investigate something related to a patient in their care, such as tissue viability or nutrition and report back their findings to the day coach. Twice yearly the trust has a collaborative placement planning meeting with the universities it works with.

”We meet and plan individual students’ placement pathways – so we can give the student a well-rounded  and holistic experience  with exposure to all disciplines, whilst meeting NMC standards.”

The trust believes that being engaged with the universities and community healthcare settings gives students a wider and enriched experience.

The trust also runs feedback sessions with students twice a year. ”These can sometimes be cathartic so we can turn any negatives into positives,” says Ms Ashworth.

”For example, OU students told us that because they have a different uniform they get confused with agency staff so they wanted something more visible to indicate they are a student nurse in addition to their name badges, so we are in the process of buying the students fob watches. They also had an issue with accessing the intranet and using PCs at work, so we have used student placement tariff money to purchase a laptop for every area, so they can work and complete documentation while they are on placement. The mentors can also use the laptops for their purposes too.”

The trust also supports mentors, and holds an annual mentor conference.

”We really want to create an environment here at Northampton General Hospital that  students, and indeed everyone, want to work in,” Ms Ashworth says.

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