Peter Bates > Service user and carer involvement in nurse education > Recruit service users and carers

Recruit service users and carers

Ways to recruit people

Nurse educators, whether in further or higher education or in clinical settings, have almost certainly already made connections with experts by experience who deliver lectures, advise projects and sit on committees. Despite this, we are aware of a number of organisations that are eager to attract new people, perhaps because they are not meeting their diversity objectives by engaging with all sectors of society. Here are some ideas about how to go about it:

  • Teaching staff who have a current or recent clinical role may have particularly strong contacts that may be able to identify people who might be interested in getting involved and may be willing to pass on the message.
  • A review of the current demographic profile of the service user and carer community may reveal that some groups are under-represented, or there are few recent recruits and the longstanding members have been socialised into the culture of the setting. In this situation, you may wish to target specific community groups and organisations.
  • The local library or Council of Voluntary Service may have a directory of voluntary and community groups who could be contacted, while organisation newsletters or the local media may reach others.
  • Targeted marketing in places where people see a nurse may be helpful, such as GP surgeries or outpatient clinics.
  • Once a service user and carer group achieves a certain level of success, it appears to promote itself, and well-established organisations have told us that they no longer need to spend much time or effort on marketing.
  • Some learning providers contract with a user-led organisation to deliver the service user and carer function and so responsibility for recruiting people transfers to this group.
  • People who are involved in other kinds of citizen advocacy activities may be interested in supporting nurse education by delivering a lecture or getting involved in some other way. This might include linking with the involvement centre of the local NHS Trust or the complaints service, contacting Healthwatch, or talking to local community groups.

Registering people

There are real advantages to forming a central system for recruiting, registering and communicating with service users and carers, not least because it means that financial management and quality assurance issues can be dealt with in a consistent manner. For example, at Kingston University, academic staff can consult their Public Engagement Network database to identify members of the public who they could involve in nurse education.

Role description

A clear role description helps newcomers know what is expected, while a person specification, perhaps supported by an interview, ensures that the right people occupy the right roles. See more about this on the Define Roles page.

Exclusion criteria

Consider whether there are specific criteria that might lead you to exclude some individuals, such as:

  • a person who does not want to be involved (but they might want to be involved in something else)
  • a person who would be significantly distressed or harmed by the experience
  • a person who does not have the specific skills that are needed for this activity
  • a person who is rude or disrespectful to others (but they may respond to feedback and change their behaviour)
  • a person who impacts students negatively, leaving them demotivated and pessimistic about the nursing profession
  • a person who is unable to speak clearly (but you may be training students to communicate with people who do not use words)
  • a person who has previously worked in nurse education, as they will not bring a sufficiently distinctive perspective (but their experience as a service user or carer is valid too)
  • a person who does not understand your educational goals (but you may be able to work with them to deliver relevant learning)
  • a person who is acutely ill, with rapidly changing health needs (but you might be able to use a video recording)
  • a person whose social circumstances make it hard for them to meet regular commitments (but you might be able to invite a group, so that it is less important for a particular individual to show up)
  • a person who has been violent in the past (but things may have changed, or they may remain calm if a familiar escort is present)
  • a person with criminal convictions (but you may be able to assess and manage the risks)
  • A person who is currently pursuing a formal complaint against your organisation, as the conflict of interests may cause difficulties both in the teaching and in the complaint process – see here (but the person may be able to keep the two issues separated)
  • a person who has been identified in the past as ‘an habitual and vexatious complainant’ (but they may tell a powerful story about defensive practices).

Welcome, induction and training

 A welcome leaflet and induction programme helps people to settle into the role, often working alongside an established service user or carer at the start.

Training can help people understand their role and deliver it more effectively. Some organisations offer service users and carers access to their programme of staff training, while others augment this with some specialist provision. A particular requirement is that service users and carers involved in student or staff recruitment complete equal opportunities training.

Supervision, appraisal systems and testimonials are less common, but allow service users and carers to benefit from feedback and explore future development opportunities.  See more on the Support and Supervision page.


  • At Teesside University, deliberate efforts to contact patient organisations and groups were made up to 10 years ago and steady effort since then has resulted in a database of 100 service users and carers and a self-sustaining group that recruits new members by word of mouth. A similar timeframe at SE-SURG and at the University of the West of England has created a self-sustaining group of a similar size.
  • Staff at University Campus Suffolk take leaflets to GP surgeries and staff at Petroc College have advertised opportunities via the Patient Participation Groups at GP surgeries.
  • A stand is staffed by service users and carers at the College Open Day at University Campus Suffolk.
  • The University of Southampton asked Healthwatch to help with recruitment.
  • The University of Lincoln has reached out to recent migrant groups and the University of Central Lancashire link with the refugee forum.
  • Edge Hill University has made active use of Facebook.
  • The University of Central Lancashire organises an annual congress for service user and carer groups.
  • Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust has invited selected complainants to deliver teaching sessions to staff.
  • The University of Central Lancashire engages with libraries, jobcentres and community centres.