The benefits of involving service users and carers

Introduction

There are many potential benefits of involving service users and carers in nurse education. But before we jump into the details, here are some general remarks:

  • Some of the following items are confirmed by research evidence but many are not… yet
  • Done badly, the best idea can cause harm rather than deliver a benefit
  • Clarity on potential benefits can drive your approach to measuring success and alert you to unintended harms

Potential benefits for patients

  • Students who have begun their career in a partnership rather than hierarchical relationship with patients will be more likely to listen to and respect patients who they deliver care to in the future.
  • Reinforces the value of person-centred healthcare in which the patient is an active partner.

Potential benefits for student nurses

  • Nurses who are selected for training by service users and carers will be better prepared to undergo interviews in healthcare services that recruit staff in this way
  • It provides an opportunity to discuss healthcare issues more freely than would be appropriate in a clinical setting.
  • Learners gain insight and find their stereotypes helpfully challenged by the input of service users and carers
  • Hearing from a service user or carer increases awareness that there are alternative viewpoints to the medical model.
  • Service users and carers may have some valuable coping strategies and other resources to share that are not found in textbooks and yet really help in responding to illness or adversity.
  • Service users and carers often bring forward the voice of seldom heard minorities.
  • Students say they benefit from a ‘taste of reality’ and in seeing the whole person and not just the diagnosis when they engage with service users and carers, especially in reporting both helpful and harmful aspects of healthcare services. As one person said, students benefit from hearing the real life experiences the service users have had. They hear firsthand of what it is like being a service user or a carer.
  • Feedback from service users can help students develop their communication skills.

Potential benefits for tutors and placement supervisors

  • Curricula are improved when service users and carers are involved in their design, especially in relation to values and ethics
  • Service users and carers can help the learning provider to maintain their values throughout the course of teaching and learning, so delivering ‘values-based education’.
  • Service users and carers bring much more than just their personal story of using services, but also many other skills, insights and networks that may be of benefit to the university.
  • Involving service users and carers in education is a requirement of regulators, so innovation in this area will help to meet inspection obligations

Potential benefits for health services

  • Listening more carefully to patient experience will improve service design and delivery, and maintain quality by holding services to account to their patients
  • Involving service users and carers in nurse education aliigns with a wide ranging government policy that is in favour of coproductive approaches
  • Shows that service user and carer viewpoints can add value everywhere in the health and social care system
  • Where service users and carers are involved in teaching and assessment, this role reversal can help everyone to work in a mutually respectful way, recognising the expertise that comes from lived experience.

Potential benefits for public contributors to nurse education

  • People who get involved often report increased self esteem, confidence and life satisfaction in being able to make a contribution, ‘give something back’ and turn a difficult time in life into a benefit for others. As one person said, ‘disabled people are often looked down from those with no disabilities, so being used and valued by the university does wonders for their self-esteem.’
  • Service users and carers who contribute may learn new skills or acquire useful knowledge through their involvement.
  • Service users and carers develop their career, sometimes by moving on to employment or academic study.