Boosting students' learning experiences in care homes

Collaborative working has enhanced nursing students' learning experiences in care homes

Collaborative working has enhanced nursing students' learning experiences in care homes

Collaborative working

Care homes are important settings for preregistration nurse training because they enable students to experience the complex and multifaceted realities of caring for older people, allowing the future workforce to be aware of the changes in healthcare.

In recognition of this, a partnership has developed between Bournemouth University and Colten Care, an independent care home provider with more than 20 homes across the south of England. The aim was to develop a proactive support structure for mentorship and nursing student placements and unlock the potential for learning that exists in care homes.

The mentors in this setting are motivated, responsive and keen to demonstrate their specialty to students, therefore ensuring they have a wide variety of learning opportunities. However, these mentors need to feel valued and supported so that students can have positive experiences.

Support mechanisms

The partnership has enabled some important support mechanisms to be implemented:

  • The care home provider has given mentors laptops to support the online student assessment.
  • The university has provided funded places on its learning and assessing in practice unit.
  • A coaching workshop specifically for the independent sector has been provided by the university.
  • Transition workshops are being held for more than 40 mentors in preparation for the new Nursing and Midwifery Council standards for student supervision and assessment.
  • An adapted version of the collaborative learning in practice (CLiP) model is being piloted. This uses a coaching approach to support students in practice rather than one-to-one mentoring. It is now common in the NHS, but does not appear to have been adopted in the care home sector.

Using such innovative approaches will ensure the placement experience equips students with the necessary skills and aptitude to progress. It is essential that there is forward thinking to ensure the care home sector is not forgotten when any of these new initiatives and standards are implemented. 

Students may have preconceptions about care home placements, but the partnership has meant there is a supportive framework in place to enable students to experience an array of learning opportunities, which are not solely focused on clinical skills. They can learn and begin to understand the complexities of caring for people in a care home setting in a humanistic way.

Feedback from students

Initial feedback from students shows that a high-quality placement experience is developing as a result of this supportive framework. Here are two examples:

‘I loved this placement because of the care and its environment. I was a bit worried about going into this setting because I had heard some unpleasant stories about care homes in the past, though this placement changed my perception completely. The standards of care were high and the environment for the residents was lovely.’

‘My mentor was fantastic. She had a clear knowledge of the documentation and what her students need to know to complete their placement and what is relevant to where they are in the course. My mentor was prepared and structured my placement and progression. She protected me as a student. Many opportunities for spoke placements were offered, to follow the patient journey and give a good insight into other specialist areas and areas of nursing. The home covered a broad range of abilities and different health issues, of which my mentor was knowledgeable and eager to share her knowledge with me.’

The university and the care home provider have ensured that dedicated time is available to solve problems and inspire future developments. This robust and transparent partnership has enabled mentors to be informed and supported, and to have the requisite skills to support future practitioners.

Belinda Humphries

Belinda Humphries is university practice learning adviser at Bournemouth University



Sally Smith

Sally Smith is nurse learning development manager at Colten Care in Ringwood, Hampshire




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