On Wednesday 22 May, the Undergraduate Medical Education Department at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) held a ‘thank you’ event for its patient volunteers, who help to educate future doctors in Nottingham.
The department has around 150 volunteer patients who offer their time at both the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) and City Hospital.
Medical students undergo five years of training to become doctors, and learning to speak to and assess patients is a vital part of any medical student’s education.
Real patients can volunteer to help with medical teaching and assessments to do with their medical history, with patients who have had liver transplants, or have complex cardiovascular or respiratory conditions, musculoskeletal disorders and complex surgical histories helping out.
Volunteers may also be asked to simulate a scenario, in which case they would role-play a scenario or provide a history of a simulate patient.
Simulated patients are asked to role-play things such as shortness of breath, cardiovascular issues and trauma, all for the purposes of developing students’ communication and clinical skills.
Liz Tibbett, Undergraduate Co-ordinator in the Medical Education Department at NUH, said: “We use real patients with real medical problems and we also run simulated workshops where the volunteers come along and role-play an ailment or illness which the student has to investigate further. We try to make all of our workshops as realistic as possible and we have some volunteer patients who deserve Oscars for their role-playing abilities when it comes to recreating dementia scenarios, childbirth, or even safeguarding issues.”
Medical students benefit from putting their skills to practice in a protected environment whilst training and find that the sessions help to equip them for real-life situations where they may have to prioritise tasks or work within a team.
Liz said: “The feedback we receive from the students is always excellent and we know that they benefit greatly from this kind of learning experience.”
Clive and Barbara Hallam, from Gedling, have been patient volunteers at NUH since 2007 after seeing a leaflet in their local doctor’s surgery.
Clive said: “We fit it around what we do and if we can help someone then that’s great – we like to give back to the NHS.”
Barbara added: “I was retiring and thought it would be something to do. When we first started out, the East Midlands Major Trauma Centre had just opened and we were involved with the teaching of communication and team-working skills between the doctors in an event of a major trauma.”
Clive and Barbara are simulated patients, meaning that they often pretend to have a variety of ailments, breaks and sprains.
Barbara said: “You get made up too – I’ve had burns on my arms and bones sticking out!”
Clive added: “I’ve been on Nottingham Forest football pitch with a broken leg. I’ve also had a ruptured spleen, blood coming out of my ears – and a lot of Triple As. Sometimes I die seven times a day!”
Nick Kythreotis, Medical Education Manager from the Undergraduate Medical Education Department, said: “We couldn’t educate the medical students who are now doctors without the help of our patient volunteers. We don’t always get the chance to see and thank our volunteers and this event has given us the perfect opportunity to show how much we appreciate their help in training the doctors of the future.”