The role of student nurses in #Health5to19 by Wendy Sinclair

wendy-sinclairHello, my name is Wendy Sinclair and I am a lecturer in children’s nursing at The University of Salford. I lead a module on the undergraduate children’s nursing programme (we have a dedicated twitter account @icypn) and Public Health England’s week of action #health5to19 has serendipitously coincided with the beginning of this module that sits at the end of year 1. While we endeavour to facilitate learning about the high impact areas for children and young people, selected by Public Health England, their week of action has led me to really consider the role our student nurses can play. From day one our students become ambassadors and role models, meaning that we encourage them to consider how they personally can make an impact. In their supernumerary role on pre-registration programmes, student nurses are exposed to a number and variety of clinical placements both in the community and in hospital settings and so are ideally placed to spend time working with children and families. They also have different pressures and different workloads that may give them the luxury of time to offer children and families, something that registered practitioners often struggle with.

I asked some first year student children’s nurses how they view their role in promoting health for children and young people:

Caroline Dicken, a student children’s nurse from Salford University has recognised how important student nurses can be in promoting oral health, an issue pertinent in the North West “As a student nurse on placement in a hospital setting I feel it is a great opportunity to spend time to sit and talk to the children or young person and/or parent/carer about their general health. Student nurses are able to spend more time promoting the importance of good mental and physical health particularly their dental hygiene. I feel oral and tooth care is a vital area of a child’s health as dental extractions are one of the main reasons children have planned operations; conversations on this topic will prevent future hospital appointments and admissions. I might be the first and only contact with time to promote oral care with the patient. I will make the interaction age appropriate and use play where necessary to explain the need to brush our teeth twice a day for 2 minutes under parental supervision. I can role model good practice by helping to or brushing a child’s teeth and/or providing oral care to the patient on a ward in a morning or before the patient goes to bed”

Salford University student children’s nurse Charity Mukanya is using her new skills to promote health at home “A large portion of being a children’s nurse is to cater to ill children, however it is equally important I have the competence to effectively prevent ill health by promoting good hygiene. I put the skills I have learnt from clinical skill sessions into practice by showing my younger brothers the correct handwashing technique. In this way I am able to prevent the passing of bacteria in the home and prevent ill health”. It is brilliant to hear Charity sharing her skills even at home! Since starting her programme, Charity has learned that she also has a role to play as a student nurse, even at this stage of her nurse education: “CYP student nurses can encourage young people to take care of their own physical and mental health through health promotion. This can be done by providing them with talks on how to maintain good hygiene and advice on how to access the right services if they have a problem and are unable to confide in teachers, family or friends. These services allow the teenager to be supported whilst taking control of their situation”

Salford University student children’s nurse Allicia Spiers has developed her understanding of the issues faced by children and young people that she can use in her future practice, “In practice, contact is valuable so offering any help you can, exposes you to different experiences, views, beliefs, treatments and procedures. This allows you to broaden your clinical analysis of conditions, but the necessary contact to build rapport, offer help, empathize and clarify any worries a family may have. I was able to use this approach when supporting adolescent/teenagers physical and mental health. With a supportive and positive approach to meeting additional requirements to aid person centred care, such as following a communication passport. You can encourage access to different services by answering any questions the families have about the care being provided for them, then working with your mentor to make sure their needs are heard and implemented. This means you’re able to help children, adolescents and their families to become aware of the support available to them. By doing this, will help enable them to recover more efficiently”

Student nurses are valued members of our healthcare teams and they come with varying levels of knowledge and experience that can be utilised and developed positively to have impact on the children and families in our communities. They have a positive contribution to make and opportunities must be created and students must be encouraged to participate. I am proud to include #health5to19 to enhance the learning in my module.

Wendy Sinclair, lecturer in children’s nursing, University of Salford

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