Sharing information to support patient’s health

Building on Dolgellau Hospital Out-Patient Department’s excellent award-winning track-record of developing community health initiatives, student nurses from Bangor University, on placement in Dolgellau are acting as ‘advocates’ for a chosen health charity and spreading the word among patients who may benefit from the support and information provided by health charities.

The ‘Charity Champions’ can provide extra support to patients in a busy NHS environment.

Keith Jones, a Lecturer in Health Sciences (Adult Nursing), who leads the initiative at Bangor University’s School of Medical & Health Sciences said:

“Today’s patients need information that is accessible and understandable so that they can be active partners in decisions about their care. Signposting patients to information about managing their conditions can also enable them to maintain their wellness and sense of control in managing their health and wellbeing.”

“The structured opportunity to champion a charity which supports people with particular health conditions also provides our students with opportunities to practice their communication skills in a positive way.”

This initiative also fits in with the public health component of their adult nursing degree, and expands the student nurses’ own understanding of the conditions they are promoting and how they affect patients.

Anne Thomas, Lead Nurse at Ysbyty Dolgellau Hospital Outpatients Department, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board commented:

“The students have three two-hour sessions on community health that includes our initiatives and we could see that there was an opportunity to develop the idea of mutual support of charitable organisations by encouraging students to choose and champion their own charity. The idea inspired such enthusiasm with our students and it is now part of their Out-Patient placement experience. Our hope is that they will continue to be an advocate for their charity beyond their training and that all the University’s health care students could be encouraged to be Charity Champions.

In the future, there is the potential for a UK wide network of Charity Champions that can replicate our outreach work.”

Student Heulen Cynfal has chosen Asthma UK as her charity. She has been working on the online modules provided by the charity which will help her in the future with extra knowledge of the condition.

She has also been shocked by the numbers of deaths from asthma, compounded by people’s lack of knowledge of initial first aid. She is going to have her own mini campaign, distributing leaflets and raising awareness of how people can be helped in an asthma attack.

Heulen said:

"This is such a great idea. I have learned so much from the charity and I am really enjoying the modules. I really think that the extra knowledge of asthma will help me in my career, especially in A and E. I am also looking forward to raising awareness of asthma first aid."

"Wouldn't it be great if every student nurse could do this, so other nurses could ask someone who has knowledge of support for a condition that is available outside the NHS. It could make a huge difference to the NHS."

First year nursing student Catrin Dafydd chose the Parkinsons UK as her charity. She gave a small presentation on the ward, showing the staff some of the items available from the charity that remind nurses of the importance of giving medication on time including stickers for notes and patient soap bags with the message on.

Catrin said:

"This has really opened my eyes to the role of the Third Sector. As well as my own charity, I will signpost patients to other charities for peer support or advice. It is a really good idea"

"I think all students should have the opportunity as it could make a huge difference to patients. I like the idea of choosing in your first year and then having a week’s placement to volunteer in the third year. It would make sure that we carried on supporting the charity throughout our training."

Encouraging student nurses to champion or advocate their chosen charity will raise awareness of a wide range of the 6,659 registered Third Sector organisations related to health in the UK

Government policies set out plans for the voluntary and community sector to work in partnership with the NHS to tackle health inequalities. The Charity Champions initiative helps to address this issue by encouraging student nurses to choose and advocate a charity with the aim of improving patient and community health care by raising awareness and signposting patients for information and peer support. Creating a network of nurses supporting charities across the UK has the potential to benefit the NHS, patients, communities, charities, students and universities, requiring no extra funding from the NHS.

Publication date: 26 October 2021