Whilst service users and carers are frequently described as robust, effective and insightful, there are some occasions where support is needed. People may find that their health condition deteriorates or re-living a traumatic time for the benefit of students may be an emotionally costly experience. Jobseeking or other ambitions may bear fruit and people leave to pursue their dreams, while other members of the family may need extra care.
Others may simply find that the opportunity for involvement places them in an unfamiliar, challenging situation, where they are nervous or uncertain that their skills will be sufficient for the task. Those who have lived a socially isolated life before getting involved may feel intimidated by the intelligence of the students, the seniority of the staff or the size of the group.
University staff who lead on service user and carer involvement provide some support in these circumstances, but it may be worth considering peer mentor approaches, by which an experienced service user or carer is linked with a novice and coaches them, listens to their concerns, or works alongside them as they gain experience. These arrangements may be particularly valuable where some service users and carers live a long way away from the University buildings or where there is an intention to reduce reliance on paid staff and promote co-ownership of the project.
Alongside these support needs, service users and carers can reasonably expect feedback on their performance against a clear understanding of the role (see the webpage on role). As Bill Hybels says, ‘it is a cruel and unusual punishment to give someone a job and not tell them how they are doing’. Sometimes the inexperienced person finds that having an audience is an intoxicating experience, and needs help to use their newfound power effectively. Most often, people simply need to be appreciated.
Service users and carers who are Inexperienced in delivering teaching may need particular encouragement and feedback, and staff should resist the temptation to ignore poor performance or manage it by simply not booking a return visit from the person, but have a duty to provide feedback to all and an opportunity to develop.
The third component here is to consider developmental opportunities. Service users and carers need to hear about opportunities to contribute, to take up new activities, perhaps moving from teaching to join a curriculum planning group or to take up a role in relation to research. A newsletter or email distribution list may form a platform for ensuring that everyone hears about these opportunities and has a chance to indicate a wish to participate. Whilst some people will be quite happy contributing at the same level, there should be a clear progression route and range of opportunities for people who wish to enlarge their experience, Some people would like to receive a certificate, reference or testimonial of their achievements to add to a personal portfolio, or be able to present at a conference.
Providing training and support to service users and carers will equip them for supporting the task of nurse education. See the Training webpage. Meanwhile, if the university is also lowering barriers to employment for people who have good qualifications and a relevant lived experience, then these two paths will meet one another, and service users and carers who wish to do so will be able to become students and employees.
Where service users and carers are coming in to the university as casual staff, then the quality assurance process is largely achieved by offering repeat business to those who excel and not to those who do not.
- At Bucks New University, three kinds of feedback forms are used for each session to collect responses from the tutors, the service users and the students. This positions the topic of feedback for service users and carers alongside parallel processes for staff and students.
- At the University of Wolverhampton, new service users and carers complete an Expression of Interest form and then a Profile in which they can specify any reasonable adjustments that they need in order to participate. This then forms the foundation for providing effective support for teaching.
- At the University of Chester, service users and carers who teach are subject to the same feedback and evaluation processes as other staff.
- At Sheffield Hallam University, a staff member will phone service user and carer educators after the session to check all has gone well and gather feedback.
- At Sheffield Hallam University, modules are evaluated by students at the end and everyone who has contributed sees the same evaluation summary.
- At the University of Lincoln, each service user and carer meets one-to-one with a staff member each year to discuss how the last year has gone and what can be offered in the next year to help the person to move forward.
- At the University of Hull, service users and carers are supported through the same system that supports all visiting lecturers.
- At the University of Hertfordshire, a ‘tripadvisor’ style feedback system is available to students for their voluntary use should they wish to do so.
- At the University of Central Lancashire, staff can ask service users and carers to step down from teaching if they are considered to be unsuitable. People have the option of using an appeals process, when a final decision is made by a panel of service users and carers.
- At Sheffield Hallam University and the University of the West of England, testimonials have been provided, At the University of Lincoln Certificates of Attendance are offered to service users and carers who contribute and
- De Montfort University has provided references.