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Local walks help student nurses understand patient communities

Walks develop student nurses' skills and knowledge in observing and reflecting on the neighbourhoods where their patients live
by George

nullJacqueline Davies, Lecturer in Nursing Division at City University London, won a Health Education North Central and East London (HE NCEL) 2014 Quality Awards. Jacqueline received first prize in the category of innovation in healthcare education and training for novel public health walks developed by student nurses in local communities.

The innovative walks help develop student nurses' skills and knowledge in observing, reflecting and being in the neighbourhoods where their patients will come from.  

"In the first weeks students undertake a module on how social sciences relate to healthy communities," said Jacqueline. "Walking in small groups for up to two hours, they are instructed to observe the real 3D world using all five senses, and reflect on the community's healthiness."

In the successful application for the prize, Jacqueline said "On their walk students can observe the places typical of a guided public health walk which focuses on social and economic conditions of people's lives over 100 years ago. The signposts of historic spaces which were once public baths, drinking fountains and Victorian lavatories may be seen underfoot as well as high up on buildings.  Historic public health innovations are important to learn about, but students are encouraged to consider which are still in use, how their use has changed and what influences health now.  To observe the causes of 21st century premature morbidity and mortality something more than a treasure hunt or guided walk is required.  Understanding the health inequalities identified by WHO in 1987 requires a compassionate approach to observation."

The innovative module challenges students who may seek a finite definition of what affects health to consider the  how social determinants of health are influenced by context. While Public Health England presents key health indicators, there is no fixed list. What impacts health will vary by area and time. As a result the opportunity to reflect on a walk values students skills in observing and understanding the real world around them.

"On their walk the teaching team really encourage students to talk to the people they meet. We don't want them to interview people, but instead engage in conversation to enable the students to learn more about the local community and for the community to learn more about them too. This is an aspect of the walks that students really enjoyed," added Jacqueline.

Image: Jacqueline Davies (centre) is given her award by Dame Christine Beasley, Chief of HC NCEL (right) and Sir Keith Pearson, Non-exec director of Health Education England (left)

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