ellenor has teamed up with Greenwich and Canterbury Christchurch Universities to offer important placement opportunities to students.
Supported by Health Education England, the placements are designed to give people starting a career in nursing or paramedics science a valuable insight into all areas of the profession. For ellenor, the students also enrich the support on offer to patients and families.
The students often already have the qualities needed in end-of-life care, so both ellenor and the university see the placements as mutually beneficial.
Austin Parsons, Senior Lecturer in Paramedics Science at Greenwich, says: “To become a paramedic, as well as academic ability, you need empathy and a desire to help people. You need to show kindness and support and be able to engage with people. Communication is important and the placements help with that. The students need to feel comfortable talking to people. To some of them this comes naturally, but others need to learn these skills.
“Placements are an important part of our students’ academic development and also teach them to build good relationships.”
Part of a paramedic’s role is to communicate not only with the patient but with family members, which can be especially distressing if their loved one is at end of life. In these cases, the family are looking for reassurance, all skills the students learn while working with the nurses at ellenor.
Austin says: “Traditionally placements take place within ambulance service and hospitals, but we like to offer other options such as end of life care. It is something key to the role of a paramedic. They often encounter patients undergoing palliative care and this can be an area of anxiety for them.
“Student placements make them think about what happens next after a patient leaves their care. Working in different situations gives them exposure, and they can share what they have learned with other students.
“It is good to learn new skills, to be able to talk to people about dying or manage palliative care and make decisions. Dealing with a patient who is at end of life is a very different situation to one of the calls they would be more likely to expect, to a cardiac arrest for instance.”
Austin explains that in many emergency situations dealt with by paramedics, they work as part of a team with other health professionals, but if they are called to a patient who is near the end of their life, a very different approach may be required, and they may be called on to make quick decisions.
He says: “It’s still all about what is in the best interests of the patient, but what they are trying to achieve is different.”
Austin believes it is good for his students to experience a whole range of patient encounters, including in ITU and maternity wards. Having practised himself for 13 years as a paramedic with the Ambulance Service in Dartford and Gravesend, Austin was always aware of ellenor and the patients with life limiting illnesses that it helps.
He says: “During my time as a practicing paramedic I dealt with ellenor in my professional role. And we did do a Tough Mudder to raise money for them at one stage. People in the area all know what the hospice is and what ellenor does for the community.”