NHS Kent, Surrey and Sussex

Virtual Work Experience allows students to explore a range of NHS careers

2013

Established

38,000+

Learners supported

1,000

Foundation trainees

About

Kent ICS, Surrey Heartlands and Sussex ICS operate as part of the NHS across the South East of England. Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) are partnerships between NHS organisations that meet the health and care needs across a specific area, coordinate services and plan in a way that improves population health and reduced inequalities between different groups. The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions caused many NHS organisations to move their in-person work experience programmes to virtual. Kent, Surrey and Sussex were searching for a solution that would support multiple NHS roles, help to combat the national shortage of nurses across the UK and enable them to continue delivering work experience despite restrictions. After experiencing the work Springpod can do through Health Education England, they reached out to us directly to build three programmes that would meet their objectives and help them to build a pipeline of future talent.

Goal

Promoting multiple roles within the NHS and Care Sector

The pandemic caused unprecedented upheaval in the NHS, with hospitals and trusts facing increasing demand on both their staff and workload. On the front line of care and through the redeployment of many roles, many staff were taken away from their day-to-day duties so that they could help with more important tasks brought about by the pandemic. 

This caused a shift in the way trusts developed their work experience programmes and in the roles which they believed were important to focus on in the upcoming months. 

Each organisation ran multiple programmes to enable them to promote various roles within the NHS and care sector. They each focused on developing a programme with help from the Springpod team, which would then be used by all three organisations and include their own staff within the live webinars. The programmes were as follows:

  • Nursing (Developed by Sussex)
  • Medicine (Developed by Surrey)
  • The Allied Health Professions (Developed by Kent)
“We wanted to promote various roles in the NHS and care sector and try to engage with young people to get them to think about a career with us. We developed the nursing programme in Sussex. We have a national shortage of nurses so wanted to showcase the range of nursing roles available and the opportunities for career development, with a focus on Sussex.

Challenges

Why the NHS organisations chose to work with Springpod

Springpod works with numerous NHS trusts across the UK including West London NHS Trust, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, North Bristol NHS Trust, Northumbria Healthcare, and many more.  

Springpod enables NHS organisations to create a virtual work experience that is accessible and impactful for students.  

The decision to go virtual was a model Kent, Surrey and Sussex were all keen to explore after experiencing the Springpod platform through another NHS organisation. After reviewing Springpod’s existing NHS Virtual Work Experience programmes, the Kent, Surrey and Sussex teams worked together to create three programmes they could all use across the regions.

When it came to designing the programme to meet their needs, Springpod worked in conjunction with the teams to decide which elements were required to generate the best results. 

“Springpod was very helpful in designing our programmes and advising us as to what would & wouldn’t work. Springpod recommended using links to relevant career resources as additional content. They also shared the storyboards at the beginning of the process to help us to visualise what the programme might look like.” 
“We wanted to showcase as many aspects of each area as possible, e.g. acute hospital, community, adult, paediatrics, GPs, mental health, learning disabilities and more. Each module had resources to read, videos, tasks to complete with independent research and a live webinar where professionals talked about their role, what training they had to do, and career pathways. 
During webinars the students were invited to vote via polls using multiple-choice questions, the reasons for right and wrong answers were discussed which gave insight into different medical conditions and addressed important topics like ethics and decision making. At all stages of the programme, students were able to engage with professionals and ask questions and there were also live Q&A sessions at the end of each webinar.”


How did Springpod help?

Removing barriers to work experience

By creating a programme that was accessible online, the barriers created by the pandemic were eliminated. Over 2,500 students were able to access the programme from anywhere, participating in live talks hosted by NHS trust staff and working their way through the programme in their own time across the two-week period.

As restrictions begin to lift, Kent, Surrey and Sussex all believe that there is still very much a place for virtual work experience, even when in-person opportunities can return. As with similar organisations, many are using virtual programmes as a way to generate mass interest in their in-person programmes and reach a wider audience before inviting a selection of applicants into the workplace for further experience.

“Virtual work experience enabled us to scale up our work experience not only to include all our ICS Partners but across three ICSs.
We would like to continue with VWEX and offer in-person WEX as a follow on for some students who have completed VWEX. They can enhance their experience and take part in more of the practical aspects of the working environment and further increase their knowledge to help them decide whether a potential career in health and care is for them.” 
A diverse and inclusive programme

For each organisation, it was important to reach a diverse cohort of young people who could learn more about their trust, the care sector and the nursing opportunities available. 

An allocated proportion of their work experience placements on all three of their programmes were given to those who met at least one of the following criteria: 

  • No immediate family history of higher education, excluding siblings
  • They currently are or have been in, the care of the local authority
  • They care for someone at home with a long-term disability
  • They have an Educational, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • They are eligible for free school meals and/or a 16-19 discretionary bursary

The Medicine programme included 38.8% of students who met these criteria, Nursing was 49.1% and Allied Health Professional was 38.8%. At least 45% of those enrolled in each programme were from BAME communities.

“I think the product is really good and offers students a real insight into our professions. In the absence of in-person work experience, this programme has been invaluable as we have been able to offer this to a diverse group of young people at a time when they have struggled to get the usual work experience.”

The Nursing programmes saw over 600 apply.

Feedback from students from the course was excellent, one student said:

“I loved how in-depth every part of the programme was and it has really guided me into what part of nursing I would like to do in the future. It has also made me excited for the day when I become a nurse.”

Another said:

“I really enjoyed doing this course because I learnt so much about nursing. The live webinars were very useful as they allowed me to ask questions about their role. This experience has inspired me to consider multiple roles in the NHS such as being a midwife or mental health nurse.”

Alongside their nursing programmes, each organisation ran the Medicine and Allied Health Professional programmes. The Medicine programme allowed students to gain an insight into the multiple career options available, including the speciality areas students can go into - from cardiology to pathology.

Across all the regions, the Allied Health Professions programme was rated 8.9 out of 10 and 55% of students rated their awareness of the potential career paths within AHP as ‘excellent’. 

Similarly, students who completed the Nursing programme across the regions averaged a rating of 9 out of 10 and over 69% rated the programme ‘excellent’.

By creating a range of programmes, Kent, Surrey and Sussex enrolled over 2,500 students and provided them with access to several NHS professions - something which would have been much more difficult and time-consuming through in-person experiences.

Thinking of going virtual?

When asked to respond to those still unsure about whether virtual work experience is right for their organisation, our Surrey Heartlands partner responded: “I would say: go for it!” 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.