Student nurse-patient engagement programme is national first
Nursing students

A new patient engagement programme that places student nurses at the heart of general practitioner surgery groups in the South West has been unveiled by Plymouth University.

In the first project of its kind in the country, students on Plymouth’s adult nursing degree have been working with patient participation groups (PPG) located inside GP surgeries to help them tackle a variety of issues and problems.

The pilot involving 23 GP surgeries, from St Ives and Falmouth in Cornwall, to Exeter and Torquay in Devon, has seen students lead on social media campaigns, run communication sessions on issues such as sexual health, and raise awareness of vaccination programmes for young mothers.

The findings are being presented at a health conference on Thursday 16 July, organised by the Patients Association in association with NHS England, and hosted at the University.

Kim Young, Lead for Patient Engagement in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, has been heading the project with the backing and support of the Patients Association. She said:

“This is about championing the idea of ‘patients as partners’, and providing nurses with the people skills that will serve them in good stead when they start their career in a clinical care setting. It supplements the existing activities that student nurses currently engage in during their clinical placement periods, and the project itself has the potential to make an important contribution to our local communities.”

Student nurse Megan Betts was one of those who volunteered for the programme, and was partnered with a GP surgery in Falmouth for three months. During that time, she created new resources such as a patient questionnaire to explore their experience of the surgery, and updated the baby vaccination information leaflets with details of the Meningitis B vaccine for young mothers. She also helped them to engage with and use social media more effectively.

 Megan said:

“I was able to go to the surgery and brainstorm with them – it was a totally new approach, both for them and for us as nursing students. In the case of my GP surgery, they really struggle to get young mums in to see them – but there are many more issues that, longer term, this programme could help with, such as working with young adults on sexual health and sun protection in the summer.”

The details of the project will be presented at the conference tomorrow, which will draw several hundred delegates from NHS England and clinical commissioning groups. Workshops will be run for students, delegates and patient participation groups to evaluate the pilot work, and this will feed into discussions under way to roll it out across the School of Nursing and Midwifery next year, working with the 200-plus PPGs in the South West.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said:

“We are delighted to work with Plymouth University on this exciting new initiative. The commitment of students and staff to real patient engagement has been impressive and we hope this will be the start of a long term relationship that will go from strength to strength and include all GP Practice Patient Participation Groups.”

Professor Patricia Livsey, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Human Sciences at the University, added:

“This project demonstrates how we’re taking on-board government directives and ensuring that nurses are equipped to carry out their clinical role, but also that they are able to communicate with patients, advocate for, and support them, and make important decisions on their behalf.”