Paramedic opportunities at the University of Worcester

Direct entry student paramedicEntry requirements for this course are currently 120 UCAS tariff points and a minimum of six to twelve months recent adult care experience. National vocational level 3 qualifications are no longer accepted for this course as it is felt that they are not robust enough for the programme of study. Recent adult care experience is considered an essential prerequisite to the course as not only does this provide a good foundation from which to work, it also helps develop key transferable skills such as communication, problem solving, manual handling and interpersonal skills.There is no C1 driving licence requirement to commence the course but candidates are advised to possess a provisional C1 licence. This is to ensure they meet the health requirements laid down by the driver vehicle licensing agency and will be able to undertake the C1 course when necessary. Enhanced criminal records bureau checks and occupational health screening are also carried out before any student enters clinical practice.Approach to teachingThe university has an innovative and student-centred approach to the teaching and success of this two-year course and offers patient contact from as early as the third week. Placements are welcomed by students at this early stage. One student commented ‘Going out on placement was better than I thought it would be. I thoroughly enjoyed this.’ Practice placements are then continuous over the four semesters alternating between one and two shifts per week.Students need to achieve 750 hours of clinical practice in each year. During this time they are supervized by a university trained mentor and are supernumerary. This allows the students to develop at their own pace but still within a realistic timeframe to achieve the learning outcomes.By providing mentorship for the students, it encourages them to critically analyze incidents and receive rapid feedback on their progression. The rapid practical placements also reduces skill decay. Students have commented that they feel rapid patient access helps them to assimilate the knowledge gained at university with the practicalities of patient contact. These experiences and observations are then developed during classroom sessions, making any discussion student-centred and providing motivation for the students to learn more.Placements are carried out in a variety of locations from rural villages to inner-city areas so students are exposed to a wide variety of cases.This variation means that students are required to use different skill sets; perhaps one day providing crucial life saving care to a patient on a 30 minute journey to hospital, then another having only ten minutes in which to take a history and provide the appropriate care before arriving at hospital. Skills practiced while on shift are recorded in a workbook and signed by a mentor. This book then provides evidence of the student's practical experiences and forms part of their portfolio which will be an ongoing process throughout their career.Students are placed with named mentors who monitor their progress and alert the university of any students they have concerns about or are doing exceptionally well. This is very much a three way process between students, mentors and the university. When concerns are raised, students may need specialist advice from the university's student services. If the concern is of a practice related nature, then the lecturer practitioner may become involved and extra support would be provided in order to help the student develop weaker areas.Mentors generally work on an ambulance or responder car and the student works as part of a two or three person team. This team development and close working relationship promotes learning and helps students to feel valued. One student commented that ‘mentors are supportive and motivated me as a student to reach my goal.’Students also undertake observed scenarios that provide an opportunity to demonstrate skills in a simulated environment. This allows lecturers to assess individual student's skills and where necessary provide constructive feedback to the students and mentors.Quality assuranceThe course is validated by the Health Professions Council and conforms to the College of Paramedics curriculum guidance and competency framework document (British Paramedic Association 2008). A range of systems are in place to ensure quality is maintained and improved these include Quality Assurance Agency and Local Strategic Health Authority auditing, and internal quality auditingModulesThe course is run in a modular format and subjects include anatomy and physiology, personal and professional development, care loss death and bereavement, evidence and research, paediatrics, pharmacology and work based learning. Initially, students gain hands on practice in core skills such as manual handling and communication skills. As they progress through the course, more emphasis is placed on them to make clinical decisions relating to the patient's care with the aim that they become autonomous practitioners by the end of the second year of study.Figure 1.The university offers patient contact from as early as the third weekUNIVERSITY OF WORCESTERClinical placements are arranged for students in a variety of care settings including operating theatres, cardiology, accident and emergency and palliative care, as well as ambulance shifts. These opportunities are a valued part of the course, allowing students to gain insight into other areas of health care, and perform practical skills such as cannulation and endotracheal intubation. To quote one student ‘I have loved being on shift and have met some amazing people.’To support the students learning, all lecture presentations, handouts, research and useful links to relevant web sites are posted on an electronic program known as blackboard. Students have access to this information simply by logging on to a computer with internet access. This system allows students to refresh their memory of the sessions that have been taught and provides areas of research that may be followed up. Some sessions are made available to students prior to the sessions and this has been very useful for students who are dyslexic by giving more time to assimilate information before receiving the taught session.Figure 2.Paramedics who are already HPC registered can enhance their continual professional development by enrolling on the diploma in higher education paramedic studiesUNIVERSITY OF WORCESTERAssessment methodsAssessment methods are varied but include the more traditional examination style question paper as well as essay writing, practical OSCE assessments, development of posters promoting such things as care of vulnerable individuals and creating new clinical guidelines using evidence based practice. This variety of assessment styles help students contextualise theory with paramedic practice. Students are actively encouraged to promote their profession by publishing work and completing professional portfolios.Communication is a very important aspect of this course and email accounts are set up so students can communicate with each other and university staff. A personal tutor is allocated to each student at the beginning of the course and these tutors are a dedicated point of contact with the university for students who may be experiencing personal or academic issues. Students are of course at liberty to talk to any tutor if they feel it is appropriate.Students are encouraged to learn for themselves with lecturers facilitating the learning rather than actually providing lists of facts that need to be memorized. Some students find this approach a little disconcerting at first but with study skill sessions embedded throughout the modules, this concern seems to dissipate as the course progresses.

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