‘They started off very apprehensive about what a Hospice is . . . and by the end of the week had discovered that end of life care is not depressing and can be fun and uplifting.’
So said one of the Princess Alice Hospice Summer School leaders in the wake of the first week-long course for young people at the Esher-based Hospice.
The Summer School programme is a City and Guilds course designed for students aged 16 to 19 who might be interested in a career in health or social care.
Successful completion of the week, which includes the compilation of a workbook, results in a City and Guilds Level 2 Award in End of Life Care.
During Summer School, 13 students had the opportunity to meet patients at the Hospice Wellbeing Centre and also the various staff in clinical and non-clinical roles.
This first group particularly enjoyed the speed-networking event where they were able to interview nurses, doctors, a physiotherapist, occupational therapist and social worker, about their work, the qualifications needed and the skills/attributes necessary for the job.
They learned about how to deliver care in a person-centred way and how to communicate sensitively with people who might have a life-limiting illness.
Inhibitions were shed as they brushed each others’ teeth, fed their partners jelly and juice, washed their hands and gave soothing hand massages.
The students met patients in the Wellbeing Centre, where people with life-limiting conditions can drop in to enjoy arts and crafts, active therapies, symptom management, future care planning and so on.
The students put into practice their new communication skills – being mindful to let the conversation be led by the patient, for example, asking open questions and actively listening – and being responsive to the patients’ comments about their illness or circumstances.
‘They came up with some brilliant suggestions once they started to think about responding to sensitive or difficult questions,’ said a session leader.
A session in the Hospice Man Shed went down well with students and shedders alike; the latter put together a team activity which they then coached the students in solving; then came more practical work in the form of building small electric motors.
Some of their comments before and after the course reflect the students’ preconceptions – and illustrate how the hands-on experience at the Hospice has had a strong, in some cases profound, effect on their understanding of end of life care.
They were asked:
‘What do you hope to learn?’
‘Some important skills that can help with my later career.’
‘How patients’ families feel about the Hospice’s care and how it has helped their loved one.’
Reflect on your expectation from day one – have these changed over the week and if so, how?
‘At the start of the week I wasn’t too sure what to expect; however, it has proved to be very educational.’
How has attending the Summer School impacted on your career plans?
‘I’ve always wanted a career in health care and more specifically as a doctor but I had never really considered specialising in end of life care as I thought it would be depressing; this experience has made me realise that it can be very rewarding and isn’t a depressing environment.’
‘It had made me realise that I want to be a doctor more because it opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of medicine.’
‘I am now aware of more roles in health and social care and the different pathways people follow. It has made me realise I want to study nursing, to then gain different experiences before deciding which direction to go in.’
What have you learned from the Summer School?
‘All the different roles involve in palliative care and health and social care in general.’
‘About how to communicate effectively with patients, in a way that helps them remain calm.’
‘We learned about palliative care, why it’s important, and the factors of a ‘good death’.’
‘I really enjoyed the summer school as it was a fun experience that changed my perspective on death and dying and made me realise that caring for patients is so much more than physically helping them – and I hope to apply this when I become a doctor.’
‘A Hospice is not just a sad place where people die – it is a place where people with a life-limiting illness are comforted and taken care of so they have a happy death.’
‘I was surprised by how much the Hospice provides help for people in their own homes, such as fitting special equipment to make their lives easier – making a huge improvement to the quality of life and helping them become more independent.’
‘I learned that even with the illness they don’t see themselves as less than capable. One person I spoke with realised his limits and said that the Hospice really saved him, he spoke about the Man Shed and the social group.’
The course was hosted by St. Christopher’s Hospice, a C&G registered centre, with Princess Alice Hospice acting as a satellite base.
Students came from Esher College, Kingston Grammar School, Heathside School in Weybridge and Southborough School, Surbiton.
Contact the Education Team to find out more: Email firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone 01372 461 988 or visit www.pah.org.uk/learn-with-us