Peter Bates > Service user and carer involvement in nurse education > Define roles

Define roles

Service user and carer roles​

Individual learning providers create a wide variety of roles for service users and carers. A considered approach will include role descriptions, person specifications and supervision and appraisal frameworks. In addition, some organisations find it helpful to set out some overarching principles or expectations regarding the role and place of service users and carers. Broad topic areas where people may be involved include:

  • Teaching and lecturing, particularly when co-facilitating alongside an academic colleague.
  • Patient simulation and role-play. See this example from Oxford about Clinical Teaching Associates. The University of the West of England has developed resources on simulation and the national organisation on the use of simulation in healthcare is ASPiH.
  • Mentoring, where the student meets with the service user over a series of sessions to offer support and insight. For example, at Surrey University, student nurses are linked to a patient with dementia for the whole of their undergraduate training and visits count as part of their practice placements.
  • Student and staff recruitment. In addition to these roles (see the page on student recruitment here) and a guide on involving service users and carers in staff appointment panels here), some organisations offer interview rehearsals to final year students.
  • Committee membership.

The Higher Education Academy offers four tiers of fellowship, based on the Professional Standards Framework. This is being taken up by some service users and carers, and used as a formal process to recognise different levels of skill and contribution.  The types of fellowship offered by the HEA are:

At Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, people with lived experience of using services are employed as Recovery Tutors in the Recovery Education Centre. Certificated courses in topics related to mental health recovery are offered as part of continuing professional development for mental health staff, and to people who have used services and carers who volunteer at the Trust.

When the learning provider commissions its service user and carer activity from an external organisation, this usually involves a Service Level Agreement or Contract.


  1. Service users and carers are counted as Associate Lecturers at the University of Central Lancashire, and some service users and carers have an honorary contract at the University of Greenwich.
  2. The University of Sheffield has a ‘Patients as Educators’ programme that covers medicine, nursing, dental and orthoptics. Some 750 patients and volunteers contribute as simulated patients for history taking, physical examination and clinical assessment.
  3. Sheffield Hallam University engage people on the university’s casual worker scheme as Service User Educators. At Canterbury Christchurch University, service users and carers can become sessional lecturers. At the University of the West of England, people who do more than 30 hours a year are offered an occasional lecturer contract. At Wolverhampton University, service users and carers are self-employed consultants. At Southampton University, service users and carers join the temporary staff bank.
  4. At the University of Greenwich, service users and carers sit on interview rehearsal panels for final year students, to simulate the interview panel they may face in the NHS trust.
  5. The cost and academic ability that are essential requirements for achieving an HEA Fellowship may be barriers to some legitimate experts by experience. It may be possible for a university to gain the ability to award these titles on behalf of the HEA, and then waive the fee where service users or carers have made a considerable contribution. Service users and carers who get involved in nurse education can then be encouraged to build a portfolio of teaching and other evidence of personal development.


One person has moved from Service User Educator to Associate Lecturer; another completed a PGCE and became a Visiting Teacher at the University, yet another person started a PhD.

Staff roles

Alongside this clarity regarding the roles of service users and carers, staff roles should be defined. This could include a statement in all job descriptions setting out the duty to work alongside service users and carers such as in this example from the University of Worcester, and specialist job descriptions for lead roles in service user and carer involvement, such as this one, again from Worcester.

DUCIE has published some general advice here about defined staff roles dedicated to promote service user and carer involvement. They offer some guidance on the range of duties, grade, recruitment, induction, supervision, development and evaluation.  Examples of these roles are are given below:

  • Faculty lead (for example at the University of the West of England and at De Montfort University)
  • Departmental lead (University of the West of England)
  • Principal lecturer (Bucks New University, De Montfort University)
  • Administrator (University of the West of England and Wolverhampton University).
  • Librarian (University of the West of England)

​See this example job description and this one from the University of the West of England.

Student roles

Plymouth University has been working in collaboration with the Patients Association to introduce student nurses as volunteers to Patient Participation Groups. This is an optional choice for student nurses within their Wider Patient Engagement Activities during the Nursing Programme.