Nursing Times’ news editor, Steve Ford, leaves the office to immerse himself in Bucks New University’s simulation suite
Last month I met Rachel. She was propped up in bed and wheezing audibly.
The two senior nurses and I discussed her condition. They altered her bed position accordingly, before moving on. The rest of the ward was empty.
How could this be, you may ask? Well, “Rachel” was in fact a patient simulation aid who is used to help educate student nurses in the training suite at Bucks New University.
I was visiting the university’s Faculty of Society and Health as part of a concerted effort to get out of the office and meet members of the profession in different settings to the usual conference halls and hospital visits that are the staple of being a health journalist.
I chose to experience a day in the life of a nursing school; looking at the mix of practical and theory being taught, how it was done and hopefully meet a few interesting people along the way.
A number of things really stood out for me on my visit, but the enthusiasm of the nurse educators particularly shone through.
Senior lecturer in adult nursing Deann Cox and skills and simulation area supervisor Sam McCormack showed me round, explained what they did, how they did it and answered my endless questions.
There was obviously pride in the technology now available to help educate the nurses of the future.
For example, they showed me an observation room that allows tutors to remotely observe and record students providing simulated care to “Rachel” and others, and then play it back to the students to highlight where they went right and where they went wrong.
They don’t just stick to acute settings either, recognising that much of today’s – and probably tomorrow’s – nursing care takes place in domiciliary settings and involves older patients.
As a result, the faculty’s training suite also includes a small care home scenario, with a patient hoist and beds at different levels to those found on the ward.
But Deann and Sam are also the sort of people that go the extra mile. I was particularly struck by pictures showing replica wounds – and items from the Bristol Stool Chart – made out of sugar-paste and other culinary items in order to make training mannequins and wards more realistic for students.
A brilliantly innovative idea, I thought, but one that took out-of-hours effort, biological knowledge and artistic talent!
During my visit I also had the chance to sit in on a PG Diploma teaching session with clinical nursespecialist Sarah Ambrose-Wilson.
The lecture was focused on diabetes in terms of community settings and public health policy. A bit of a chore you might think – but not a bit of it.
I found myself busily scribbling down notes on diabetes, as Ms Ambrose-Wilson put her points across using an engaging mix of scientific data, nursing history, her own experience and questions challenging the assumptions of the audience.
Things also seem to have changed since I was at university. The students did not fit the traditional stereotype – they were attentive, perceptive and certainly not shy to ask questions.
So what did I learn? There has been a 4% increase in cases of type 1 diabetes since 2006, which is so far unexplained; plus more people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in winter and in the northern hemisphere.
Also, why do we use the term “blood sugar” when we could say “glucose” – a particular bugbear of Ms Ambrose Wilson’s, it seemed.
There was also a perceptive question from one student over how health professionals could possibly win a fight with the food industry on public health, especially given the need to grow the economy.
On a personal note, I found out some unwelcome truths about fizzy drinks, after taking part in a public health quiz during the lunch break. It involved trying to rank popular soft drinks in order of sugar content, which turned up some pretty scary results – even for the flavoured water.
So, a very big thank you to all those at Bucks New University’s Uxbridge Campus that made their time available to me, made me feel very welcome and did their best to answer all my questions.
It was an inspiring day spent meeting those who will be future nurses, and those teaching and supporting those who will be future nurse
Steve Ford is Nursing Times’ News Editor.