Nursing Opinion

The value of nursing placecements in social care

Wendy Leighton, Project Manager for the Regulated Professional Workforce at Skills for Care

As Skills for Care releases its ‘How to make the most of student nurse placements’ guide, Wendy Leighton, Project Manager – Regulated Professional Workforce at Skills for Care discusses the value of nursing placements in social care.

It’s clear from the narrative of the past 24+ months that there’s a political and systematic drive to recruit and retain registered nurses for the NHS.

The Government’s pledge for 50,000 more nurses in the NHS by 2024/25 is not simply training 50,000 new nurses; it’s about retention, returners, and also recruiting from outside the NHS – which is likely to have some impact on social care.

This coupled with the long-term plan for place-based care in integrated care systems, to me, speaks loudly for the need to change the narrative somewhat, to recruiting, retaining, and revalidating professionals who can work in both social care and health – registered nurses, registered nursing associates, and allied health colleagues.

The latest Skills for Care data on nursing, taken from local authorities as at September 2020 and from independent sector employers as at March 2021, indicates a concerning landscape in relation to registered nurses in social care.

Registered nurses were one of the only jobs in adult social care to see a significant decrease over the period (down 16,900 jobs, or 33% since 2012/13). The number of registered nurse jobs decreased year-on-year between 2012/13 and 2019/20 (from 51,000 to 34,000).

So, whilst the physical landscape is changing in relation to where nursing and care is being delivered, and the NHS faces staff shortages and challenges (COVID-19 notwithstanding), perhaps we also need to change the intellectual, emotional, and professional landscape in relation to nursing – in all contexts.

At Skills for Care, our encouragement of placements in social care is rooted in widening understanding of the sector, improving care outcomes, and encouraging career opportunities.

We’re working closely with the Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care, Deborah Sturdy, as well as the Council of Deans for Health, and sector colleagues to encourage registrants to consider a career in social care. Our aim is to encourage local dialogue between the sector and higher education colleagues regarding not simply opening up additional student placements in social care, but to also embed aspects of social care ethos into the delivered curriculum.

As an employer and leader in social care it’s arguably short-sighted not to consider offering and supporting student placements, as this is not something that only benefits others, there are many potential benefits for your own organisation and for the professions.

A recent literature review by Delli Poggi et al (2021) concludes “…. high levels of satisfaction among patients when nursing care is delivered through training, particularly when the patients who agree to be treated by nursing trainees have previous experience of hospitalization and relationships with trainees. Educational background and the empathy and communication skills of both professional nurses and trainees influence patients’ perception of the quality of care and their satisfaction with it.”

Student nurses are supernumerary, they’re in a placement to learn but they also bring their developing skills and new knowledge, and often their presence can influence existing workforce to re-engage and increase their own continuous professional development.

Both of Skills for Care’s recent publications – ‘Deployment of Registered Nursing Associates in Social care settings’ and  ‘How to make the most of student nurse placements’, add to the discussion and vision of a future workforce.

This latest guide has been developed to support the understanding of nursing placements within social care settings, and for the person who needs care and support, the employer, the student, and the education provider.

The thread throughout the guide is the people who are in receipt of care – our experts by experience. We encourage the reader to engage with the full document including the introductory pages first as this gives a much better understanding of the aim of the guide, the context and how it should be used.

There are ten descriptions of a range of different social care settings developed by practitioners from the workforce with input from people who need care and support. The descriptions aim to introduce the depth and breadth of what can be offered within this type of placement setting.

Each description has been mapped to the ‘Future nurse standards of proficiency’, this enables the student, the educator and the provider to fully understand what learning opportunities are available in diverse settings – this has been well received by stakeholders and sector colleagues.

By opening up the learning opportunities to current students and contributing to the taught curriculum, perhaps we can influence change and create a future workforce for social care that wants to work in the sector, understands the sector and  sees the sector as a first choice career opportunity.

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