Health students get hands on experience with patients

UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park Health Sciences students are currently working on an exciting employer project delivered by the University of Sheffield: Patients as Educators. The programme developed by Martin Hague, Clinical Skills and Patients as Educators Manager at the University of Sheffield, started at the university in 2004 and aimed to provide their students with the opportunity to meet and learn from real patients. Patients help the teaching in a number of ways, including history- taking sessions, basic physical examinations and clinical assessments. The programme has grown significantly, with over 750 patients and volunteers engaged, and UTC students have now been invited to take part.

Discussing its conception, Martin said: ‘We started this programme because of the changes happening in healthcare, as technology and care plans were developing rapidly patients were spending less time in hospital and were recovering in the community. This was great for the patients, but gave our students less time to talk to and learn from them.’

Martin and his team have visited the Olympic Legacy Park UTC to deliver lessons. During the sessions, the UTC students initially learn about one of the body systems, for example respiratory or cardiac, a patient with a condition related to the system will then be invited in to discuss their condition. Students are given the opportunity to ask the patient questions and learn from their experience, about the condition and about the method of treatment they are receiving. During the sessions, students are also joined by medical undergraduates who come in to talk about the physiology of the conditions.

Commenting on the benefits of the programme, Martin said: ‘The information that the patients give our students and the UTC students is unrivalled. Only the patient can tell their story and it helps students to appreciate that although patients may have the same condition every patient is different. They are individuals and have their own story to tell. Students can learn the theory of a condition from a textbook, but the patient is living with the condition and is able to give them a real-life context.’

He continues, ‘For the UTC students it gives them a really good background and introduction into medical education. It’s been a really rewarding experience working with the UTC students and seeing them progress, not just for me but for the patients and medical students that have visited. Everyone involved so far has thoroughly enjoyed it.’

Curriculum Director for Health Sciences Seana Sleaford said: ‘Engagement with the patients as educators programme provides students with the opportunity to engage with professionals, medical students and real patients. They get the opportunity to learn about disorders from people experiencing them as opposed to through a teacher, research or from a textbook.’

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