Project embedding medical students with Patient Experience team shortlisted for national award | Latest news

Project embedding medical students with Patient Experience team shortlisted for national award

Dr Okike and Dr Sarah Todd, whose project has been shortlisted for a Patient Experience Network National Award

An innovative project which embeds medical students into the Patient Experience team to help them gain a deeper understanding of a patient's time spent in hospital has been recognised after being shortlisted for a national award.

The Paediatric Medical Students Patient Experience and Quality Improvement Special Study Module (SSM), was developed after colleagues at UHDB identified a gap in the curriculum for students around understanding the full patient journey and the experiences of patients who require admission to our hospitals.

The pilot scheme module involved three pairs of students spending time with the Patient Experience team, understanding the importance of their role, working closely with our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) to equip them with the knowledge around how patients feel and what they need from health care professionals that falls outside of their clinical work.

The pioneering project has now been shortlisted as a finalist for this year's Patient Experience Network National Awards (PENNA) in the Staff Engagement and Improving Staff Experience category, much to the delight of those behind its implementation.

Dr Ifeanyichukwu Okike, Consultant Paediatrician and Lead for the Child Health Undergraduate Programme at UHDB, said the training has helped to provide more rounded training to those who have taken part and helps students to understand their roles outside of their clinical curriculum.

He said: "Getting students to think about the patient experience early in their training is so advantageous as it starts them thinking about what patients feel and what they want from those providing their care at the start of their career journey.

"Understandably, students can be very focused on the academic side of things as they have lots to learn and exams to pass, but this project exposes them to the things that you can't teach in a classroom. The project is all about patient stories and sharing these with our students to show them what it really means and feels like to be a patient in our hospitals."

As part of the programme, three pairs of students each spent four weeks working with the Patient Experience team, during which time they found out about the work of the team, alongside the role of PALS in enhancing patient experience across UHDB. The students also undertook a small quality improvement project, looking at real patient data to identify themes, allowing them to make recommendations for how practice could be improved to make patients feel as comfortable as possible during their time in hospital.

Dr Sarah Todd, Patient Experience Manager at UHDB, who helped oversee the project, was delighted with how well received it was by students and patients alike, and expressed her pride at the team receiving national recognition for its work despite the project still being so new:

"It's absolutely amazing to see the work being commended in this way and it really reflects our unique approach to improving our patient experience.

"Training for medical students and indeed junior doctors can still be very focused on traditional medical teaching and education, with less of a focus on the relational aspects of care, treating the whole patient and not just their condition and providing a more holistic approach to care - something we're seeing that is increasingly important to our patients and their families.

"This is only the first cohort of students we have enrolled onto this programme, but we've had some really good feedback from them and they found the work interesting and engaging. Although they were only with us for a short time, it's provoked a really healthy mindset for them to think about a more holistic model of care for the rest of their studies which is amazing to see."

The first cohort ran from November 2022 until February 2023, with the second cohort set to be recruited and begin their placement in the Patient Experience team in November 2023.

While only a small number of students are able to undertake the training at any one time, Dr Okike says the impact of this work can be wide reaching and provoke further changes in approach to healthcare from students.

He explained: "This is something we've never done before, but there is lots of research to suggest that involving and communicating with patients can mean as much as a 40 per cent reduction in readmittance rates. So even though we've only seen a handful of students go through this process, so far, they will go on to have a big impact on the patients they care for which will continue to have an impact on the level of care provided across the Trust and wider health system.

"The next stage in the development of the project involves analysing our survey results aimed at showing the symbiotic relationship between medical students and patients use access our services co-designed by the Patient Experience team.

"We expect this will show us they value students bring to patients and also what our patients expect of the students that falls outside of anything they will read in their textbooks."

The team will now attend the PENNA exhibition and present their work to other health care professionals, before finding out if they have been selected as winners at the awards ceremony on Thursday 28 September at the University of Birmingham.

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