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Suffolk students join staff on hospital wards

The fruitful partnership between two key local organisations has continued this month, as cohorts of health and social care students from West Suffolk College have begun to experience working life at the West Suffolk Hospital.

First to arrive at the hospital, part of the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT), were second-year students who are taking the T Level Technical Qualification in Health. T Levels are equivalent to three A levels, and focus on vocational skills, helping students into skilled employment, higher study, or apprenticeships. Each T Level includes an in-depth industry placement providing valuable experience in the workplace, and this is the first time the Trust has welcomed T-Level students.

The students, aged 17 and 18, hope to take up a career in the health and care sector, and during their 45-day placement at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, will have the chance to work in a variety of settings.

Practice education facilitator with the WSFT clinical education team, Maria Musgrove, said: “During their seven weeks with us, they will be assigned to three different places, two stints of two weeks, and a final three weeks where we will try and give them a placement that aligns with their interests. This will give them a real variety of experiences in different services that look after our patients. They will also have teaching sessions, where we can help them learn more about working in the NHS, developing their career and how to apply for jobs.

She continued: “During their July induction prior to starting the placement, we had different speakers, and one of the young men expressed an interest in midwifery. We’ve arranged for him to work with a male midwife in our maternity department and this might mean that one day we have another male midwife joining us.

“Being able to work with the college to offer T Levels is brilliant news for our team. It helps open doors for the students and given them real insight into working in a hospital. We are very grateful to the teams on our wards and in our departments who welcome these young people and share their time, knowledge, and experience.”

A week after the T Level cohort, a group of BTEC health and social care students, also in their second year, arrived to start their work experience at the hospital, again welcomed by Maria. “Over 12 weeks they will have a day’s placement with us each week, on the wards, and also classroom learning. We have colleagues working at the Trust who spent a BTEC placement with us and have joined us, which is such a good thing for our future workforce,” said Maria.

The young people from the college all expressed a mixture of anxiety and excitement about taking up their placements on T Level or BTEC courses. All had ambitions to work in social care, and planned to apply for university, apprenticeships, or further training after completing their courses.

Naomi Meara, head of the health and social services department at West Suffolk College, said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity for our students. We have a long-standing relationship with the hospital that continues to go from strength to strength and are very grateful to the WSFT for their ongoing support.”

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