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Preparing students for palliative care


Debra Morris and Angela Kelly from the hospital specialist palliative care team at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust talk about their award-winning student placement

salford student placement

salford student placement

Source: Macmillan

Student Ashleigh Smith (centre) with the team

NHS England’s Strategy for End of Life Care1 supports the need for an increased focus on education of generalist and pre-registration nurses in end of life care. However, very few pre-registration students are exposed to specialist palliative care during their training.

Salford University had asked if we were able to provide ‘hub’ placements for pre-registration nurses. Whilst we recognised that students would benefit from exposure to practice, we did have some reservations as to whether we could spend enough time with the student and whether it was appropriate to shadow a palliative care cancer nurse involved in giving bad news and challenging conversations.

However, we were also mindful of the rich learning that could take place within palliative care and the need for confident staff trained in using recognised end of life care tools, able to engage in early conversations and aware of the importance of good care after death.

We decided that we would accept a student on a full hub placement with the team and review the experience.


Experiential learning

Research has suggested that preregistration students have feelings of hesitancy and anxiousness when caring for a dying person1. So we designed a welcome booklet and planned an individualised student program with a timetable of available learning opportunities.

We used reflection to highlight any concerns and offered students opportunities to discuss any experience that they may have found distressing.

Our aim was to prepare students for the realities of working with people at the end of life, encouraging them to be assertive and to seek out support whilst developing confidence to advocate for patients.


An invaluable experience

 Students have said that they felt welcomed and valued when on placement with the team, which increased their confidence when working with patients nearing the end of life.

Our evaluations show that students have left this placement feeling a lot more prepared for caring for a person with palliative care needs, gaining valuable exposure in areas such as breaking bad news, end of life care and challenging pain and symptom management.

Students also understood the importance of early conversations with regards to a patient’s preferred place of care and death.

We were happy to receive a Student Nursing Times award this year, for best student placement of the year, and we now take pre-registered students on a regular placement.

1. Leighton K (2009) Death of a simulator. Clinical Simulation in Nursing, 5(2), 59–62.

d and a

d and a

Source: Macmiillan

From left to right: Debra Morris and Angela Kelly, Palliative Care Nurse SpecialistsSalford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.

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This article was featured in Mac Voice, our quarterly magazine for Macmillan health and social care professionals, showcasing their work and sharing good practice. Want to read more like this? Check the archives for more articles.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Nursing Homes are places which deliver Palliative care to numerous patients on a daily basis under total control of Qualified and experienced Nurses , maybe they could be involved with this training scheme.?

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  • I am a mature student nurse going into my final year. I have since the start of my training voiced my concerns regarding placements of newly recruited student nurses,being subjected to palliative environments without the benefit of guidance from university. Many nursing students dread the prospect of facing families of a dying loved one and it is so important to have had the experience of a good mentor to ease them through this difficult situation. End of life care should be as important as new life because as we are all told we only have one chance to get it right.

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  • Alex
    You do not say where you received your training, I cannot imagine why you were left on your own in this situation , you are completely correct in saying that a good mentor is invaluable .

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