Inner City Highs and Lows

What does it take to make me feel nervous?  Well, this week I started week 1 (of 4) of my nursing elective at the beginning of Year 3 of my nursing degree. I haven’t opted for an easy one – an inner city Accident and Emergency department.  As I walked from the train station towards the hospital, I was struck by the neighbourhood and the towering building in front of me getting ever closer. What awaited me at the front entrance was an assortment of police vehicles, armed police officers and ambulances rushing round to the main Emergencies entrance. I thought “oh dear, what have I done?”

However, once inside the safety of the building, the nerves began to ease.  I spent my first shift (all 13.5 hours of it) in Resus – within a few hours I was helping treat an elderly patient knocked down by a car who had sustained 3 fractures to his leg.  He was on his way to work at the time!  Then came a female patient in acute respiratory distress with chest pain. The red telephone had alerted the department to her arrival (locally known as ‘Standby’). The receiving team quickly assembled, preparing everything in a calm and organised way. Later a male patient was whisked off for a CT scan – no time was wasted as we wheeled his trolley at breakneck speed along countless corridors in this vast hospital.

The department was under siege with patients needing attention by mid afternoon but the staff, whilst working under enormous pressure, never lost sight of what they were doing or the care and treatment required for each admission.  Their calmness helped my nerves, and I didn’t feel too much like a fish out of water as a nursing student.

I breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the shift, but as I sat on the train going home, I took a moment to reflect on all the good that had been done in very challenging circumstances. Despite tension and stress, there were smiles, lighthearted banter and little acts of kindness throughout the day.

Elective placement in Sri Lanka

Hi! I’m Abbie and this is my first blog post! (This was written two weeks ago but due to technical difficulties it is only now being uploaded!)

I am an Adult Nursing Student about to start my 3rd year in September, which means going straight out onto our elective placement. I will be blogging throughout the placement when i get the opportunity.

As myself and 3 other students decided to travel abroad for this placement and we’re not entirely sure what to expect when we get there, I’ll be sharing what we all find and how it differs from placements here in the UK.

In just 3 days we will be making the long journey to Sri Lanka for our elective placement. There are 4 of us going from Stafford Campus and a 5th joining us the week after from the Shrewsbury Campus.

Truthfully, my reason for travelling abroad for this placement was because one of the girls going had decided way back in 1st year that she wanted to go abroad, and when it came to actually making the decision, we all decided we wanted to go to!

The costs seemed feasible, and we knew it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. It will be interesting to see how the healthcare system differs to here in the UK.

Not only that, we’ll be able to do a bit of travelling around Sri Lanka whilst we are there!

We chose the company Work the World as our tutors and other students had said that they had used this company before and they were reliable.

There were lots of places to choose from, from Cambodia, to Peru, to Tanzania. Prices ranged from £1340-£1890 plus a £300 fee when you first apply. On top of this we had to buy flights and save up some spending money, so cost is definitely something to consider if you’re thinking of going abroad for your elective.

We all set up a gofundme page and were able to raise some money through that, and I know the other girls were working a crazy amount of hours to afford it all, but we knew it would be worth it in the end.

On your elective placement, even as an adult nursing student, you can choose to visit any area, even midwifery or mental health areas, and so I’ve requested to spend two weeks on a General Surgery ward, and two weeks on Obstetrics and Gynecology to see some babies be born!

I’ll post some updates whilst we are there so keep a look out for future blog posts to see how we are all getting on!

Elective placement

Firstly I would like to introduce myself, my name is Katie and I am entering my 3rd and final year of my children’s nursing degree. I have decided to write this blog as I believe that it would be a shame for fellow or prospective students to not join me in my experience as I embark on my nursing elective on Takadori, Ghana.
I would like to apologise in advance if my spelling and grammar isn’t of the highest standard, this is something I have always struggled with and over the past 2 years at Staffordshire University I have strived to improve, with the help of the University staff and my peers. My academic capabilities might be average but my passion for nursing and specifically Children’s nursing is something I feel very strongly about. I hope that if anyone reading this that is considering a career in nursing and who thinks that it is beyond their capabilities will take something away from reading my blog and realise that dreams are achievable as hard work, dedication and passion go along way down the nursing path.
A little bit about myself, before I made the decision to embark on the student nurse journey I was an Air Hostess for 11 years, this to me was a career I had always wanted since I first traveling on an aeroplane and I believe that my experience in this career set me up for my career in nursing. I gained valuable life and people skills while working with and meeting many different people from all over the world. As soon as I entered my 30’s I realised that my burning desire to make a difference to people’s lives wasn’t being fulfilled, specifically with children. After some serious consideration I made the decision to enter the world of healthcare, I gave up my life in Manchester and moved home with my dad and enrolled at college, which led me to securing a place on the children’s nursing course at Staffordshire University, Shrewsbury campus.
Not long after starting the course there were people talking about the 4 weeks elective placement that we had at the start of our 3rd year, at the time this seemed like such a long time away but we were always reassured that time would fly and here I am at the start of my 3rd year ready to travel to Ghana for my 4 week elective placwment.
Africa has always had a place in my heart from the years I spent there while I was flying, such a different way of life from what we know. So for me it wasn’t hard to decide where I wanted to go for my elective. After speaking to a student nurse in the cohort before mine about her experience in Ghana I was then 100% sure I wanted to spend my 4 weeks there to work in a hospital and experiences life with the local people and hospital staff.
Work the world is the company I contacted to enquire about my elective placement and they gave me information on many different placements all over the world, Ghana as it turns out is one of the best placements for paediatrics which made me happy. Before I knew it I had payment my deposit and my place was booked, this was 13 months before I was due to depart.
My next challenge was to ensure I had plans in place to raise the money that I needed to be able to go. After lots of research and talking to other students who had already been abroad for their elective I started my fund raising. I needed to raise over £2,500 to cover all of my costs, this seemed daughting at the time but I made sure that I was organised and dedicated to the task, this was hard at times due to commitments and ensuring that I put 100% into my studies and placements.
I did managed to raise the amount I needed, I achieved this from a bake sale, pub quiz, car boots sales, selling half of the contents of my dad’s house (well a few bit of unwanted furniture), putting in extra hours at work and setting up a JustGiving page which my brother helped me raise a considerable amount with his running challenges he set over a 2 week period and also donations from a couple of local businesses.
I also managed to get some essential supplies donated to me, including medical supplies, gloves, antibacterial gel, scrubs and thousands of pens, thank goodness for the 46kgs luggage allowance I had.
I have had all of my immunisations and I have finally packed with 1 day to spare, I have said my goodbyes and I finally feel like I am ready to embark on this opportunity of a lifetime.
I will be staying in the work the world house with other students from across the world and my placement is in the local hospital, I have chosen to do 2 weeks on the paediatric ward and 2 weeks in NICU.
I am nervous mainly about how I will be able to channel my emotions especially while being so far from home and my amazing support network, but I am also very excited for the next 4 weeks, I genuinely believe that this experience is going to change things for me and I also hope that I can walk away from it with my head held high knowing that I might have made a difference or installed a change for the better to the local people in Ghana.
Until next time, I thank you for taking the time to read my blog and I hope you join me as I update you along the way during my time in Ghana.

Operating Department Practice: 100% NSS – again!

The results are out! Now is the time to find out what our students think about their learning experience with us. Big drum roll…………. The National Student Survey (NSS) results say Operating Department Practice (ODP) is 100% overall satisfaction, for the third year running!

The National Student Survey (NSS) is aimed at final year undergraduate students, and gives them an opportunity to feedback their experiences about their course. The NSS informs us about the learning experiences of our students, and helps effect change. The results are publicly available to prospective students, enabling them to make informed decisions about the university and the courses they are applying for. The NSS gives students a powerful voice to inform and shape the future of their course and university.
As a team in ODP, we spend a lot of time developing our curriculum, striving to deliver creative and innovative teaching to stimulate and empower students as they progress on their journey to become registered healthcare professionals. We facilitate student engagement, developing underpinning theory and knowledge that student ODPs will transfer into clinical skills in the clinical placements. We use a variety of resources, from high fidelity simulation manikins, to case studies and role play. We incorporate digital technology, enhancing the learning experience, but reinforcing the human element of the ODP profession – that the patient is at the centre of all that we do. We also work closely with our practice partners to ensure our students have a valuable placement experience.

But the truth of it is, that we can’t do this alone. We work in partnership with our students, acknowledging that they are adult learners who will one day have ‘our life in their hands’. Communication plays a vital part, ensuring students are kept informed of changes and developments. We listen to our students, and respond to their feedback. We are connected, sharing the journey, resulting in 100% employment on completion of the course. We are incredibly proud of our students’ achievements, #proudtobestaffs and proud to be #ODP.

Angela Woolliscroft, Course Leader: FdSc Perioperative Care and Lecturer: Operating Department Practice and Health and Social Care,

Dear Parents………

This is not a standard blog because it is deliberately intended for a few people, but bear with me. First and foremost….. congratulations! Your job has a parent is to ‘fledge’ your child and yes, we know it is hard but you have done a really good job! You have managed to bring him or her up so well that s/he has got a place at university. I suspect some of you are wondering how when you remember desperately encouraging revision, getting them out of bed or some of the scrapes that they got into. But you did it! Well done.

I suspect you are right now planning the last meal before they go to university, you are probably looking at their packing and adding things (just in case) and you have possibly had a few episodes of anxiety. Calm down – they will be OK. This is not the last ever meal you will have with them and to be honest they will probably enjoy it so much more after the novelty of eating pot noodles every night for 2 weeks has waned. Similarly, we know that you pack for every eventuality (‘I have just put some anti-venom in your bags in case you are bitten by a snake’), but I suspect they know where to get supplies. So, some advice from someone who has gone through this:

Prepare for the first night away. Secret some treats in their bag with a note encouraging them to share with their new flatmates. You have no idea how much a bottle of wine or homemade cake can help people get to know each other. Don’t forget yourself here – plan something special at home so you are not brooding on their absence.

Agree communication. Stalking them on social media will only worry you (remember you do not know the context of why they are dressing up in a toga and seem to be really good friends with a psychopath). They will be enjoying their new independence, so asking them to call you daily is likely to cause you worry when they don’t because they have forgotten.

Have realistic expectations. Yes, we know that you have seen horrendous initiation ceremonies in the films and fear that your child will take up all sorts of nasty habits. The reality is that they will probably have a really good time initially and then will have no choice but to study. Certainly within the health programmes, students quickly learn that they cannot party too hard and be able to learn their profession. You might not have these fears, your child is perfect and you are confident that they will spend every day tidying their flat and reading, reading, reading. I speak from experience here – I spent 12 hours cleaning my daughters flat when she graduated and am sure there was a cure for any type of disease in their fridge! However, my daughter survived and yours will too.

Be prepared for their intellectual growth. You have been the most influential person in your child’s life and now they are entering an institution where they will be expected to be critical, evaluative and independent thinkers. They might develop different political leanings to you and have different perspectives, but enjoy it. You are now entering a stage in your relationship where you can explore these views together and you will develop a more grown up friendship with them.

Let them be adults. When I dropped my daughters off for the first time, it took all my self-will to resist finding anyone in authority and beseeching them to watch out for them. Yes, your child might find parts of the course tough, but this will develop them. Remember, there are support services in the university and although I am biased, I genuinely think this is where Staffordshire University comes into its own. If they fail something, don’t contact us but please encourage your child to. Our contract is with the student (not you) and we are bound by confidentiality. The way to look at it is that they are entering a very responsible profession, so they need to be autonomous and resilient.

Think about money. I am not saying that you need to bankrupt the Bank of Mum and Dad but if you are in a fortunate position to be able to subsidise, try thinking of ways that you can protect how they spend the money. Some supermarkets do student cards which means that you can top up the cards so they can at least buy food with it. There are some really good websites which give good advice, try A useful thing to do is to stock up on cheap tinned foods, so at least you are not imagining your child languishing hungry and miserable in their room (they make good fall back staple foods). It is useful to be aware that the rooms are often small, so it might be worthwhile investing in an underbed storage case (it will also give them somewhere to store items that they do not want ‘liberating’.

Give them memories. In reality, your child will miss you. Do not underestimate how comforting a photo of the family or a treasured cuddly toy can be.

Finally, this is the next stage of your lives. Things won’t be the same again, but it does not need to mean that it won’t be good again – it will be different (and possibly better). So, you need to enjoy it too.

Traci Hudson, Lead Midwife for Education/Course Leader,

Butterfly births

One of our lovely 2nd year students recently gave the midwifery team a present.  It was a physical birth register – the idea is that every time a student delivers a baby, they post a token into the slot at the top so it gives them a visual and tangible reminder of their progress in achieving the 40 births they have to manage in order to qualify as a midwife.  Stacey explained that she regards our role as educators as being similar to that of a clinical midwife in that we help midwives to be born (sometimes kicking and screening).

The tokens with the register are shaped like butterflies and the symbolism is not lost on us.  The first stage of the butterfly life cycle is the egg, with some butterflies if you look close enough you can see the caterpillar inside.  This signifies the potential that we see in our new student midwives: their care, compassion and ability to evaluate and problem solve.  The larva forms the 2nd stage, this is a short period of time where all they do is eat.  This is like the first year of midwifery education: the students vociferously digest new knowledge and skills in order to be prepared for the increasing autonomy that the subsequent years bring.  As the students enter the 2nd and 3rd year, they slowly metamorphosis and become recognisable as the midwife they will become (the pupa stage).  Finally, they emerge with all the skills and knowledge needed to be registered midwives and similar to butterflies, they are expected to take on the role of adulthood straight away.

The midwifery journey to becoming an ‘adult butterfly’ is not an easy one.  Our most senior cohort is flying away right now and their reflections are both painful and joyous in equal measure.  They have all cried, laughed and despaired – birth is one of the most intense, emotional and life-changing moments in anyone’s life and it is therefore unsurprising that the students do get affected by the experience.  During their time, they will have sat with a family quietly, letting them talk about what their stillborn baby could have been.  They will have witnessed miracle births which medics told the family would never happen. They will have had sleepless nights over child protection issues and families living in extreme poverty.   They have participated in emergencies where every instinct would have been to run screaming from the room – but they didn’t, they swallowed their fear and did the best they could do to help.  They will have grappled with complex physics, chemistry and biology trying to equate the science with the art of midwifery.  Most of all, however they will have really cared, this will have changed some of their political viewpoints and in doing so, made them question humanity.  Our students did not know whether they helped with the birth of the next Adolph Hitler or the next Mother Theresa but they didn’t care.  I know that each time they worked with families, they did so with warmth, professionalism and a real commitment to doing their best.

As I raise a toast to the newly metamorphosed adult butterflies, I hope that the eggs that are about to enter the larva stage this month become as bright and wonderful as the ones leaving us now.

Traci Hudson, Lead Midwife for Education/Course Leader,

De-coding the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) results and going for Gold!

If anyone out there is anything like me, you might be a little baffled by the Teaching Excellence Framework and what it actually means, so I thought I’d do a little investigatory work and summarise my findings and thoughts. Staffordshire University has recently been awarded the ‘Silver TEF award’. This means that we are in the 50% of universities awarded Silver in England for 2017. 26% of universities were awarded Gold with the remaining either not taking part or being awarded Bronze.

The TEF awards are all about measuring teaching quality and excellence with an aim to give students insight into the quality of education they can expect from a particular institute. After looking a little more into the TEF, I was surprised to learn a few things. Firstly, the TEF is a means by which the HEFCE is abolishing tuition fee caps. Universities awarded Silver or Gold can charge their students more in fees to study (the justification being that you can expect to pay more for better quality education). As you can imagine, this has provoked some heavy criticism and I’m not sure it’s something I totally agree with either. Surely, this is going to cause problems down the line? Especially for disadvantaged students, who may only be able to afford a ‘Bronze’ university.

Secondly, the TEF has been criticised for not being a valid means of assessing quality. Gone are the days of inspectors assessing teaching quality during ‘OFSTED’ style inspections by the QAA. Those methods of measuring quality have been damned for not appreciating the breadth and unique learning and teaching of adults in Higher Education. The TEF uses ‘soft’ data to award levels of Gold, silver or Bronze and this soft data is mainly gathered from NSS results (Yes, that’s right….our NSS is that important!!). Data is also gathered from DLHE (the Destination and Leavers Survey) and information held about student retention from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. There are six core metrics all gathered from existing data and three of the metrics are gathered from NSS data alone!!

Gathering data wholly from these areas has produced some interesting results, which is changing the basis of university league tables nationally. Some well-regarded universities (who may depend on their historical reputations) have taken a blow with their TEF results and have attempted to appeal their awards. For once, the quality of education is being heavily based upon what the students report. You may see this as a good or bad thing, but personally I think this has got to be positive. After all, isn’t everything about the students and the education we offer them? Interestingly, the results have uncovered that at some of the well-regarded universities student satisfaction is low and as a result these institutions have been given a ‘red flag’ capping the level of TEF award which can be achieved. Quite disappointing for some, but I think it’s positive in terms of measuring real quality in education. It’s when you delve into these statistics you realise that we are in a good position at Staffordshire University. The face of a ‘great university’ is changing and its now through our students that we can become a better university. It’s the students who tell the world whether we are a good university, and now it seems the future of the ‘evolving’ league tables rest on what our students report in surveys like the NSS.

Our challenges exist around doing what we can to ensure that student experience is good, our NSS is continually improving and making sure our student retention is maximised with students remaining highly employable.

Lauren Philp, Lecturer in Midwifery,



Why you should get vaccinated before starting uni

In preparation for your arrival at university here is a little reminder about an important aspect of your health and what you can do to protect it.

Did you know that teenagers and young people are the second highest at risk group for contracting meningitis? Each year freshers across the country succumb to this disease when innocent people carrying the bacteria in their throat share with new friends who may not be protected.

Meningitis W is a particularly virulent strain. A programme to vaccinate 14 to 18 year olds against this strain in the form of the Meningitis ACWY (Men ACWY) vaccine began in the UK in 2015. But you may have missed out! You may not have been in the UK!

What should you do?

Students going to university or college for the first time, including overseas and mature students, who have not yet had the Men ACWY vaccine remain eligible up to their 25th birthday.

You should contact your doctor to have the Men ACWY vaccine before starting university or college. If that’s not possible, you should have it as soon as you can when you arrive on campus or commence your programme of studies.

Familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of meningitis so you could recognise the disease in a peer in halls (sadly some of those who died did so because friends thought they were drunk).

While you are getting this vaccination it would be a good time to check you have had all relevant UK-schedule vaccines – especially the two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Measles has increased in prevalence in the UK recently and a number of cases have occurred where large groups of people congregate, such as at festivals and in halls of residence.

Protect your health and that of your peers: get vaccinated.

Sharon Graham, Senior Lecturer, School of Health and Social Care

A Procrastination Inspired Muse

Being very new to the ‘art’ of blogging I pondered long and hard as to what the blog content should focus upon. Then, as we all do sometimes, my mind wandered back and a ‘familiar saying’ made me think for a while.

Having been in the health and social care environment for ‘dare I say it’ thirty four years now, the service demands, political drivers, complex patient needs together with the ever changing care provision landscape, presents, as we are all well aware, on-going challenges. However some things never change.

As a novice general student nurse working in the early 1980’s, my aspirations certainly never included ‘becoming a ‘Lecturer in Continuing Professional Development’ within a University. Indeed, way back then my focus, apart from wanting to care for my patients, included making sure the bed wheels ‘faced the same way’ and ‘the end opening of the patient’s pillow cases were correctly aligned’ so as not to face the entry of the old Nightingale wards. This, if not adhered to would induce the ‘wrath’ of the old fashioned ward sisters. I remember how intimidated I felt, we have come a long way since then.

I feel extremely honoured and humbled that my role as a nurse and midwife has enabled me to be present to support and care for a person’s life at birth and ultimately at death, a true ‘cradle to grave’ experience. To be able to offer this, my then ‘training’ and further qualifications gained, empowered my aim to deliver empathic,  safe, effective patient care and support. I know that is the focus of what everyone within the health and social care environment will also want to do. I remember when I came across this quote many years ago it had a profound effect upon my ‘reflecting’ on my role and equally applies to all students and colleagues whether we are working directly at the’ clinical coal face’ or within the health and social care education arena.

People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel! (Maya Angel)

I wonder if the old fashioned’ Sisters’ mentioned above had ever read this quote, probably not I feel. However it shaped the way I mentored students and now within my teaching role.   Definitely ‘food for thought’, which reminds me I must stop procrastinating and focus upon writing a ‘blog’.

Dawn Suffolk, CPD Lecturer CPD,

A week is a long time in politics

The famous quote that forms the title of this blog is attributed to the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson back in the 1960s but is arguably even more pertinent to the current political landscape. Trying to make political predictions is a risky game given how quickly things change and both pollsters and politicians have had their fingers burnt trying to second guess how the public will vote in the last couple of years.

The challenge for academics and students is to try and make sense of the world around us and we are certainly living in fascinating but unsettling times. One of my main academic and professional interests is in the decisions that governments make about how to financially support the most vulnerable in society. Often this is referred to as ‘welfare’ or ‘benefits’ and while these terms have become tainted in recent years these are big decisions – social security spending is the biggest area of government expenditure (yes bigger than Health or Education).

Over the last few weeks I have written a number of articles and blogs where I have tried to unpick some of the main local and national issues in relation to welfare spending and poverty. These are issues that have an impact on a wide range of service users and professionals across the entire Health and Social Care spectrum. I hope that they give a snapshot of the current position while we all draw breath and wait for Brexit and the next election…

London School of Economics Policy and Politics blog – I argue that we need a fundamental shift in the way that we administer social security benefits and treat benefit claimants.

Staffordshire University Election Experts blog – Stoke-on-Trent has some of the poorest constituencies in the country meaning decisions about social security have a great impact on many people living in our local communities.

Adviser Journal – I explore the positions that the main political parties set out in their election manifestos in relation to social security benefits.

Richard Machin is the course leader for the Social Welfare Law, Policy and Advice Practice degree:
Twitter: @RMachinStaffs