Georgia Jones has been a BSc student at Manchester Metropolitan University since 2018 and a support worker since 2020. Here she shares her experiences working as a community support worker during her pre-registration degree.
As a 2nd year student out on my first placement in February 2020, it became apparent that the situation out in clinical practice was rapidly changing. As pressures on the NHS increased, placements were cancelled, and students were uncertain about what the rest of their programme would look like as online learning commenced.
In May 2020, I was lucky to be offered a temporary Band 3 support worker role at my local trust as part of the NHS's paid-placement initiative. This allowed me to build up my required clinical hours. For two months, I worked as a student physio and assisted with facilitating early supported discharges and preventing unnecessary admissions as part of the Rapid Response team in A&E.
I then was offered a bank Community Support Worker role within the team. For this , I visited discharged patients at home to assist them with activities of daily living (ADLs) and help them regain their independence. I continued with this role part-time during my final year whilst on placement and completing assignments at home.
Working as a support worker in the community provided me with opportunities to develop my clinical skills and overcome challenges such as lone working. I quickly learned to prioritise patients in my caseload dependent on their needs whilst ensuring that any safeguarding concerns were reported to senior members of staff. I also saw that support workers were often the main point of contact between patients and the wider MDT and played a key role in identifying potential referrals after seeing the patient in their own environment.
Finding support on placement
While on placement, I worked with a variety of compassionate support workers from different departments. This really helped me develop my understanding of the scope of the role and the importance of support workers within MDTs. They also gave me feedback and helped me to reflect on my performance, such as learning how to adapt my communication methods with patients.
Students can learn so many valuable and crucial skills from support workers. It’s important that we understand their role because, when qualified, we will be working in partnership with them and will need to delegate appropriately and provide supervision where required. We also want to eliminate any assumptions or misperceptions of their role.
It can be stressful moving from placement to placement and it was often the support worker who inducted me into the area and informed my wider knowledge of the services available for patients. During my initial placements, they were a source of reassurance. As a nervous student, they encouraged me to ask them questions and not worry about feeling silly. Knowing that students' exposure to clinical environments can vary, at the start of my placements, I was asked what clinical experiences I had to ensure that I received the right amount of support.
From both perspectives
I have been lucky to experience clinical practice in both roles. Along with the significant impact they have on patient services, support workers play a key role in contributing to students' placements.
I feel students would benefit from discussions on the importance of support workers at university before going out on placement, so we can really embrace and benefit from their contribution.
To any students reading this, do not underestimate the importance of shadowing and working with support workers on placement. I am due to start as a newly qualified Band 5 physiotherapist in the coming weeks and I am committed to further developing my understanding of the role, whilst supporting and empowering support workers to get involved with student education.
On 17 June 2021, Georgia shared her experiences as a student physio and community support worker at the CSP webinar 'Working with students – the support workforce’s role and value in supporting the next generation'. Watch the recording online. (Georgia's talk starts at 38 minutes.)
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