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Rachel McFadden, a lecturer at West Lothian College, explains how her Health and Social Care students have been able to progress despite obstacles created by the pandemic.

Banner image for Partnerships and creativity pave way to NHS careersBlog-16052022

The pandemic has made things especially difficult for our Health and Social Care students. They are all studying for careers in a regulated workplace and so their abilities must be observed and approved within a real life environment. 

For this year’s HNC Healthcare Practice students this was looking almost impossible; traditionally the NHS does not have the capacity to offer our students a placement – and care homes recovering from the pandemic were very reluctant to take anyone.  

However, as part of West Lothian College’s existing partnership, my colleague, Annette Millar, and I began discussions with NHS Lothian, initially about the possibility of supporting a dozen students to articulate to the second year of Edinburgh Napier University’s BSC (Adult or Mental Health) Nursing course. 

Because of the demands on its workforce, NHS Scotland was offering employment for students to meet their hours. As a result of our talks, 38 Health and Care students from West Lothian College were invited to apply – and they were subsequently appointed to posts as Clinical Support Workers. They were each given permanent contracts within areas which both aligned to their studies and matched a skills gap within the NHS.  

They have all now completed their NHS induction and normal employment checks and are starting their jobs. There has been an added benefit in that Napier University has indeed accepted 12 students for Year 2 entry into its BSc (Adult) Nursing course for next year. These students are required to complete 600 hours in clinical practice to meet the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s standards along with gaining additional competencies that the current 1st year nursing degree students will complete.  

Without this opportunity our students would have been unable to complete their HNC with the clinical practice required this academic year.  

With thanks to NHS Lothian for all its hard work in supporting our students in every way it can, I would like to share some of the feedback we have had:  

Student feedback 

“First of all, I’m very thankful to you and the NHS for an amazing opportunity.  

“I’ve studied care for 3 years at West Lothian College and have never been able to do a placement due to Covid, so to be able to get into the hospital, and in an amazing unit like the stroke rehabilitation ward is an amazing opportunity to put my knowledge into a practical clinical setting. I’m thoroughly enjoying the job; the staff are amazing and have supported me completely, as have you.” 

Antonia Amanda Mason, HNC Healthcare Practice Group B 

“I wanted to thank you so much for managing to arrange the placement for us; it has so far been an extremely rewarding experience. The staff have been very attentive, and I have learned so much already. So far, I am really enjoying it and look forward to every shift that I do.  

“It’s really helping me to see a successful future for me in healthcare and I look forward to progressing onto university! Since my first day I’ve felt extremely welcome and was welcomed with a very warm environment which helped me to settle in very easily.” 

Mhairi Grant, HNC Healthcare Practice Group A 

“Being given the opportunity to work for the NHS is nothing short of amazing. My time on the ward so far has been rewarding as I have been able to observe and to practice skills I have learnt in my course.” 

Alanna McIntyre, HNC Healthcare Practice Group A 

“You have worked incredibly hard to give us this opportunity. It has given us such a great advantage in experience and has taken away the stress of having to do another job as we are paid within the placement. I have been on my ward for two weeks and have already learned and experienced so much. The support from Rachel and the ward has been wonderful.”  

Laura McIntyre, HNC Healthcare Practice Group B 

“You went above and beyond for each of us! You have communicated with the NHS about the placement, sorted out our inductions, and provided us with information when it has reached you. I’m thoroughly enjoying my ward area and feel my confidence growing! “ 

Morgan Colquhoun, HNC Healthcare Practice Group A 

“I have been given the opportunity to carry out my HNC placement in DCN (Department of Clinical Neurosciences), ward 230 of the Royal Infirmary. So far, I’ve found the experience to be resourceful and rewarding. I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to my new role as a clinical support worker/student. I believe that learning within a hospital setting is a great stepping stone to prepare an HNC student for Nursing studies and placement at university.” 

Gillian Cuthill, HNC Healthcare Practice Group A 

“I am extremely grateful for being given this opportunity within the NHS, and honoured to be officially employed by them as I never expected to obtain an NHS post so soon. This has provided a more positive college experience for me as I can obtain my hours for university whilst studying my HNC. This works out really well for my family life as I am getting paid for my placement hours, which is just excellent. I’m looking forward to putting the theory I’ve learned into practice and being in a hospital environment sooner than I thought.” 

Amy-Louise Watchman, HNC Healthcare Practice Group B 

“Rachel has put in so much time and effort to secure paid placement hours for HNC students. This is a fantastic opportunity. I have learned so much within my ward area, a lot of experience that would not be possible in college without a placement. I am very grateful for this opportunity and the support Rachel has given us.” 

Kathryn Wright, HNC healthcare Practice Group B