Placements are a vital part of every student's journey, allowing them to test their theoretical knowledge in a practical environment and see what daily life as a health professional really entails.
North London's Whittington Hospital welcomes up to 140 Middlesex undergraduate nursing and midwifery students on placement at a time. The supportive, friendly environment and community feel of the hospital makes it the perfect place for students to develop their skills and prepare for employment, says Lisa Smith, Assistant Director of Nurse Education and Workforce at Whittington Health.
"Students receive one-on-one mentorship," Lisa says, "Our assistant practice development nurses also play an important role; they work with third year students to enable their transition from student to professional life. They help with students' final projects as well as with writing, applications and interview techniques. Students receive one-on-one support; there's a real friendliness and community feel."
Students at The Whittington Hospital are just as valued as members of staff; some Middlesex students have even received 'employee of the month' awards in recognition of their achievement on placement.
"We have had so much positive feedback about the quality of Middlesex students and how ready for work they are," Lisa says. "They are technically good, but also competent compassionately. They are our eyes and ears; they ask difficult questions and encourage us to question our own practice and be as reflective as we can."
After completing their placements at Whittington Health, Lisa says, "students find it easier to put theory into practice." Thanks to the special support they receive at the hospital, they leave their placements well-equipped to handle the day-to-day demands of a busy ward and a diverse set of patients.
"Our support, mentorship and high volume of mentors per student mean they are able to develop their coping mechanisms," Lisa explains.
As healthcare professionals respond to ever-changing challenges and a shift in traditional roles, it has never been more important for students to gain quality experience during their placements.
"The population we serve is getting older; patients are more complex," Lisa says.
"In many ways, the dependency of our patients has increased. At Whittington Health we've seen a growing diversity in the people we work with, which brings its own challenges. We are now an integrated care organisation, providing both community and hospital services, which means patient care is more seamless than it once was. There is also a stronger emphasis on prevention, health promotion and holistic care. We teach our students to see the patient as a person, not just as someone in bed with a condition."