Nursing studies

Student ambassadors: championing quality care

From quality walk arounds to mock Care Quality Commission inspections, a scheme in north west England is helping healthcare students show leadership by delivering high quality patient care

From quality walk arounds to mock Care Quality Commission inspections, a scheme in north west England is helping healthcare students show leadership by delivering high quality patient care

Student__Qual_Ambassadors©Twitter
Student quality ambassadors from universities in north west England
attending a welcome event at Manchester Metropolian University.
 Picture: Twitter

For nursing students in the north west of England who are passionate about good practice, a local scheme offers the chance to champion quality care.

There are currently 240 student quality ambassadors based in 11 universities across the region, covering both the NHS and the independent sector.

‘It’s growing and lots of people want to get involved, which is great,’ says its leader, Louise Hodgkinson, a nurse who is a lecturer at the University of Chester. ‘Students are fresh eyes within their placements. They can share good practice and they have a voice. It’s been very well received.’

Shared experiences and initiatives

The scheme, which is run only in the north west at present, was set up in 2011 and is open to any student on a healthcare programme, including nursing, midwifery, medical and allied health.

Students can apply at any stage of their course by submitting a 300-word statement on why they want to become a quality ambassador and providing details of their mentor and personal tutor. Once accepted they attend up to four training development days throughout the year, where they can share experiences and initiatives.

As part of the scheme, the students take part in quality walk arounds, mock Care Quality Commission inspections and hand hygiene audits, sit in on patient experience groups and become dementia friends. ‘They really get involved in what’s happening where they are based,’ says Ms Hodgkinson.

Encouraged to challenge

Students are also urged to take forward their own ideas to improve the patient experience, working on projects in smaller groups within their own universities. ‘It doesn’t have to mean big changes,’ says Ms Hodgkinson. ‘From small ideas, things often grow.’

One project, which came from a conversation between two students in the scheme, was to develop a communication tool to help patients with learning disabilities when they are in acute adult healthcare settings.

Another student created an emotional support guide to help healthcare professionals when dealing with people in distress, especially those self-harming or contemplating suicide. ‘Many of the projects are practical,’ says Ms Hodgkinson. ‘We’re encouraging students to challenge, in the right way.’

Growing confidence

For those taking part, there’s a range of benefits. ‘Every six months we have a questionnaire, and what really shone through in the last one was their growing confidence,’ says Ms Hodgkinson.

‘They felt able to give presentations, stand up in meetings and put forward their views. They feel part of an organisation and have the support of the whole regional group, so it’s a big team. It’s also great for networking, as they meet such a variety of people.’

Other advantages include an increased understanding of how decisions are made. ‘They get a strategic overview of healthcare,’ says Ms Hodgkinson. In part, this comes from having the opportunity to work with senior staff, including directors of nursing and quality leads. ‘We’re looking for motivated individuals, but we can develop their leadership with training. We’re trying to grow the leaders of the future,’ she says.


Lynne Pearce is a freelance health journalist

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