A hospital trust in Swindon has launched a student nurse placement focused on safeguarding adults, as part of efforts to address a “massive gap” in pre-registration education.
The placement was the brainchild of Jonathan Newman, safeguarding adults lead and registered mental health nurse at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“There just seemed to be a huge gap which, to me, left adults at risk”
He has worked with trust colleagues and Oxford Brookes University to develop the innovative learning opportunity.
One student has already completed the 10-week placement, which includes working with the trust’s small adult safeguarding team and then spending time on an acute ward to apply their new skills.
Students return to the safeguarding team in the final week of the rotation, providing an opportunity to reflect on their learning and experiences in practice.
Mr Newman told Nursing Times he wanted to establish the dedicated placement to help tackle what he described as a “massive gap” in nurse training when it came to safeguarding.
“Having looked at undergraduate programmes, I couldn’t really see much around safeguarding – there is a little bit around capacity and consent issues – but there just seemed to be a huge gap which, to me, left adults at risk,” he said.
“Safeguarding is at the top of everyone’s agenda and is a key line of enquiry for the Care Quality Commission, yet there is not enough education and recognition out there,” he noted.
“I would expect them to be challenging more senior members of staff”
Mr Newman said that, based on his previous experience of speaking to students, their knowledge of safeguarding was “very limited”.
“Having looked at the curriculum, there is nothing specific in there that would give me confidence they would be able to manage safeguarding issues on qualification,” he told Nursing Times.
The placement offers adult nursing students the chance to boost their knowledge and skills in areas such as identifying adults at risk of abuse or neglect, assessing mental capacity and managing the care of vulnerable patients.
They will hopefully also gain an in-depth understanding of safeguarding policy and key legislation, such as the Care Act and Mental Capacity Act, and how these should be applied in practice.
“One issue at the moment is nursing programmes are behind when it comes to the law and don’t seem to have caught up with legal requirements,” said Mr Newman.
“It is vital people understand the importance of documentation and raising a concern at the right time”
In addition, students will attend key staff meetings – including multi-agency safeguarding conferences – as part of the training, which is underpinned by the National Competency Framework for Safeguarding Adults developed by Bournemouth University.
Mr Newman said one of the most important elements for him was ensuring students had the knowledge and confidence to challenge existing practice.
“Top of the list for me would be to challenge practice, and that’s about having the confidence to speak up,” he said.
“I would expect them to be challenging more senior members of staff,” he said. “Sometimes when people are doing things day-in-day-out they are not going to spot wider issues, whether that is something around documentation not being filled in properly or skin assessments not being done.”
Students on the placement will be encouraged to share their learning with other staff and raise awareness of safeguarding issues.
“This is about recognising an adult who is potentially experiencing abuse or neglect – the early warning signs, things people might not have considered as part of an assessment,” he said.
Placement scheme to fill adult safeguarding skills ‘gap’
“You get a lot of patients here from other providers such as nursing homes,” he noted. “Some might have injuries that are unexplained, so it is vital people understand the importance of documentation and raising a concern at the right time.”
Mr Newman told Nursing Times that the first placement had been “really positive” all round and “run like clockwork”.
Another student is due to embark on placement next week, with others lined up throughout the year.
He said he hoped the project would inspire other trusts to develop similar training opportunities and also influence educational institutions.
Meanwhile, the safeguarding team hopes to continue working closely with Oxford Brookes to develop some focused safeguarding modules for nursing students.