Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The future of virtual work experience


Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of the biggest and busiest trusts in the UK. It is also one of the most successful teaching NHS foundation trusts in the country, with around 16,000 staff and an annual income of one billion pounds. As the second-largest provider of specialised services in England, they support people with rare and complex medical, surgical and neurological conditions from cancers to genetic disorders.


An opportunity to continue offering work experience

The trust has always given young people the opportunity to access work experience, although this is usually in-person. The pandemic and subsequent national lockdown in March 2020 resulted in the trust halting their work experience in order to protect the public and prioritise the needs of their patients. In normal circumstances, the trust would provide opportunities to over 600 aspiring medical students; despite restrictions, there was still a clear need to provide some form of work experience to ensure that young people were still able to develop.


Accessing and engaging with larger cohorts of students

Despite over 600 applications for in-person work experience each year, launching a new virtual programme specific to Cardiology gave Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust the opportunity to reach an even greater audience. Allowing students into an operating theatre in-person during a live procedure limits the number of student places, and the age restrictions in place mean those under the age of 18 cannot participate.

As the hospital had previously worked with Springpod on their first programme to provide a general overview of their hospital and the NHS, the opportunity to pioneer a brand new programme that is inclusive and accessible to all seemed too good to miss. 

Led by Dr Azfar Zaman, a Consultant Interventional Cardiologist and Honorary Clinical Professor of Cardiology at Newcastle University - Springpod and the trust were able to stream a live surgery webinar using state of the art Tegus software to provide an exciting and interactive insight for students during the Newcastle Cardiology Insight Programme.

“We’ve not been able to offer any work experience since March 2020, usually we have over 600 students a year, medical students mainly, which is why we wanted to deliver the Cardio programme. Azfar is so passionate about what he does, and by doing virtual work experience, we can reach a much larger audience. If we were to do this in-person and students had to commit to a live procedure, we would probably only reach one or two students. Doing it this way has allowed us to target so many more students. Because it’s virtual, because it’s live, students can ask questions and be answered in real-time.” 
- Kayleigh Wright, EWD Admin Support Officer (Apprenticeships), HR Education & Training Patient Care

How did Springpod help?

The future of work experience includes immersive theatre experiences for all

Work experience is not a new concept, but virtual work experience is opening doors to a younger age group - introducing those under 18 to the immersive experience of live theatre and operating procedures without actually being there. Virtual work experience also allows for a much wider range of students from all backgrounds. It broadens the scope of the audience, allowing it to expand across the UK, eliminating social mobility boundaries. 

Not only were young people given access like never before, but aspiring doctors and medics were able to engage with professionals already working in these roles, partaking in question and answer sessions in real-time. The live surgery webinar had over 100 attendees and 42 questions - something not possible through in-person opportunities.

“Age restrictions are a big barrier for work experience in hospitals, we can have students from 16, but if we want them to have experience within the theatre, they would need to be over 18. The live element came from Azfar; he wanted to use the Tegus software to share the surgery with students. We’d run previous programmes with Springpod and wanted to go further, which is where the live webinar idea came from. He’s got such a passion for what he does and wanted the option to share that to such a wide audience, not just a handful of people.” 
- Kayleigh Wright, EWD Admin Support Officer (Apprenticeships), HR Education & Training Patient Care

The potential to do live webinars with other surgeries is something the trust has considered and one that other trusts would be able to implement given they have access to the correct software. Virtual work experience programmes of this nature can open doors for students like never before, revolutionising how students learn about the healthcare industry from the early stages.

“I think there is definitely room for sharing alternative surgeries provided the theatre had the cameras and software available to share. It would be great to enable us to showcase other operations.”
- Kayleigh Wright, EWD Admin Support Officer (Apprenticeships), HR Education & Training Patient Care
Working in partnership to facilitate the programme

Springpod worked with the trust to enable the programme to run as smoothly as possible, with regular meetings and additional support. The programme was open to 100 students with an additional 30 secured to allow for drop off rates and external circumstances. In just 10 days, over 600 students applied from the platform. The demand for experiences across the healthcare sector within Springpod’s audience is largely due to the success of programmes like this one.

During the live surgery webinar, participants were shown a percutaneous coronary intervention (a keyhole surgery to help patients with angina who have blocked heart arteries). With the additional testing of software prior to going live, the webinar was able to engage students without a hitch and had over 40 questions from interested aspiring healthcare professionals.

“It was smooth, straightforward, we managed to get all of the governance structure through on the day. There were no glitches. From my operator’s perspective, it went really well.”
- Dr Azfar Zaman, a Consultant Interventional Cardiologist and Honorary Clinical Professor of Cardiology at Newcastle University

Considering a virtual transformation?

The trust is passionate about helping young people gain access to career opportunities and despite restrictions, have found a way to do this. Now, they’re open to helping other trusts do the same, to encourage young people to take their first steps into a healthcare career. We understand it’s difficult for NHS trusts to still deliver work experience, which is why here at Springpod we aim to make the process as seamless as possible whilst still creating programmes that are insightful and engaging to students. Springpod has a library of content available for NHS organisations to use when creating programmes as well as bespoke options available. To learn more, speak to one of our team.