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New guidance to support social care placements for nursing students

New guidance to support social care placements for nursing students

New guidance to support the development of placements in social care settings for nursing students has been launched.

It comes as the government recently claimed it wanted to enable ‘all student nurses’ to have the ‘chance’ to undertake a social care placement as part of their training.

Skills for Care – the strategic workforce development and planning body for adult social care – has published the guidance in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and chief nurse for social care Professor Deborah Sturdy.

It is aimed to be used by employers, practice assessors and practice supervisors responsible for assessing and providing learning opportunities for student nurses and nursing associates across the adult social care sector and covers how organisations can host student nurse placements and the advantages of doing so.

The 28-page document highlights the need for nursing students to have ‘a sense of belonging’ while on placements in order to ‘thrive and succeed’.

And it discusses the importance of inductions for students and the need to understand the ‘different stages that a student may be at within their learning’ and to provide them with learning opportunities that reflect this.

The guidance also includes insights from universities and care providers about the importance of social care nursing placements.

Data from Skills for Care shows that in in 2022/23, there were an estimated 33,000 registered nurse filled posts in the adult social care sector, with a vacancy rate of 11.3%.

The body said there was an ‘increasing demand for social care nursing professionals, and the provision of effective social care placements for student nurses and nursing associates is vital in attracting and growing the future social care nursing workforce’.

Professor Sturdy said: ‘Undergraduate placements, across a variety of care settings, are the best way to create the next generation of social care nurses and nursing associates, equipped with the skills, knowledge, and intuition to deliver exceptional care.’

Meanwhile, Claire Leenhouwers, national professional lead for nursing at Skills for Care, added: ‘Whilst we recognise the challenges for smaller social care organisations compared to setting up placements in larger providers and NHS Trusts, there are real opportunities for quality practice placement experiences that meet the needs of students and the providers.

‘This will ensure a future nursing profession that has the skills and experience to work across a system to meet support expectations for care.’

‘All student nurses should have social care placement chance’

The guidance follows a white paper published by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) last year outlining the department’s ‘long-term ambition [for] all health undergraduates to experience adult social care’, starting with trainee nurses.

More recently, in the government’s formal response to recommendations made by the House of Lords committee in its report Patients at the centre: integrating primary and community care, it also said: ‘We want to enable all student nurses to have the chance to undertake a placement in an adult social care setting as part of their training and are keen to widen this aspiration to other clinical qualifying programmes.’

Responding to the government’s pledge, Liz Jones, policy director at the National Care Forum (NCF), told Nursing in Practice that the charity had ‘long advocated for much better, systematic and supported opportunities for all student nurses to have the chance to undertake a placement in an adult social care setting as an essential part of their training’.

‘We know that many of our members do try to support their local higher education institutes to offer placements to student nurses and have built good relationships locally,’ she added.

‘However, the key to making this possible for all student nurses is a much more systematic requirement within the curriculum to spend time working in social care settings and services and to work with care providers to better understand what they need in terms of resources and preceptorship support to make this a reality across a wider range of services.’

Meanwhile, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) recently updated its Standards for Student Supervision and Assessment (SSSA) supporting information to include registered care home managers as suitable practice supervisors, which it hopes will increase the breadth of practice learning experiences available to students, including more social care environments.

Anne Trotter, assistant director of professional practice at the NMC and a registered nurse of more than 40 years, said: ‘In line with our standards, students must have the opportunity to engage and learn in a variety of settings across health and social care.

‘Social care nursing is a lifeline for people, their families and communities across the UK – so it’s vital students can gain insight to this environment and have access to a breadth of practice learning experiences.

‘This ensures that they can develop the knowledge and skills to deliver safe, kind and effective person-centred care for people across different settings.’

A recent report from the King’s Fund identified mandatory primary and community training placements as one of a number of ways to incentivise more staff to work in these settings.

Alex Baylis, assistant director of policy at the King’s Fund, said: ‘Nursing in adult social care is often less visible – and, as a result, can seem less valued – than nursing in hospitals.

‘The reality is, nurses in adult social care may be caring for 20 or more residents with complex and differing individual needs, which can make every day different.’

He added: ‘Student nurses can only benefit from a wide range of placements across hospital and community settings.

‘Experience in adult social care settings could not only improve their clinical skills but also reiterate the value of giving truly personalised care.’

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, added that having a generation of nurses with experience in social care would ‘help create more opportunities and pathways for a career in the sector’.

‘Care needs to be seen for what it is: an exciting, challenging and professional career. Encouraging student nurses to have a placement in care settings will go a long way in placing social care on an equal footing with the NHS.’

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