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College students take up their places with hospital teams

Staff at the West Suffolk Hospital have been joined by ten students from West Suffolk College, who are undertaking work placements as part of the second year of their BTEC health and social care course.

The young people are the first group able to do their placements in the hospital since the pandemic and will be spending 100 hours on various wards and departments, including classroom learning. This is just one element of the successful and enduring partnership between the Bury St Edmunds-based college and our Trust, where students from previous BTEC cohorts are currently in the third year of their nursing degree courses.

The ten students will be working on the wards and in other departments and teams, able to help staff with basic care, and to observe and shadow clinical colleagues. These include nurses and healthcare support workers; occupational, physio- and speech and language therapists; pharmacy and the tissue viability service among others. They will also have a session in the simulation unit at the Trust’s education centre to give them a taste of what hands-on healthcare involves.

Among the cohort is J, 17, who has been named “outstanding student” by the college because they were really passionate about taking up a career in healthcare. “There is so much opportunity, so many different career paths to go down” J said. During the first year of the course, J did 150 hours of work placements in care homes and schools for children with special educational needs.

“I really enjoyed that,” they said, “but I am excited to be moving into a hospital setting, getting the experience and investigating different careers before taking the next step. At the moment I am hoping to go into emergency care and perhaps training as a paramedic.”

Fellow student Jasmine said she had been inspired by her experience during her first-year placement in a school for children with special needs. “It was hard work but definitely rewarding,” she said. “It showed me how incredible service users can be, and I learned that because they have special needs they have to be so resilient.” Jasmine, who is also 17, is applying to university and hopes to become a children’s nurse and said: “I know this placement will help me to learn a lot about what I want to do in the future.”

Hannah Swallow, work placement officer at the college, said: “We are so excited to get back into the hospital so that these students can access clinical experience that is second to none. What WSFT has put in place is outstanding, the students are not working in just one area but seeing so much. This gives them the chance to find out what is right for them, and what is not.

“These students have proved themselves in the last year, and showed their willingness to learn, to engage and to commit. They have earned this placement and they all deserve it.”

Alex Levitt-Powell, lead practice education facilitator (pre-professional), said: “Historically we have strong relationships with the clinical areas to allow students to rotate into as many as possible to give them a range of experiences. We are so grateful to the ward managers and other colleagues supporting these young people.

“The BTEC course is a great stepping stone towards choosing the next step in their health or social care career. The experience they gain throughout this placement will be vast and I hope that it will give them the basis to move forwards with their career plans. We are supplementing placement with face-to-face teaching around professionalism, observations and escalation, and interview skills. We hope to support them with mock interviews in the future to help them prepare for university applications.”

The students’ time at the hospital will end on Monday, 21 November, when they will give presentations about what they have learned from their work placement.

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