Preparing nursing students for placement in mental health hospitals

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There are a limited number of resources available to students to prepare them for working in mental health units and understanding the experience of patients [service users]. This Moodle module for Mental Health Nursing at City follows a student’s digital experience into a hospital placement, with an interactive guide that allows students to open doors that takes them on a virtual tour.

Originally the lead academic Lorna Saunder in SHS called this ‘City Vista’, following on CityScape which was a multimedia simulated reality learning package targeted at improving healthcare for people with learning disabilities. This project created a blended learning programme for nursing students on the Mental Health Nursing at City course. With multimedia and video content that is embedded into Moodle, students training to support mental health patients who are admitted to hospital, will have a clearer idea of what is meant by compassionate care, with the aim to develop greater empathy competencies. Soft skills training is ideally suited to video and interactive content as an accessible and engaging format alongside face to face teaching in a blended learning environment. Although designed and launched pre-pandemic, the appropriateness of this style of learning and teaching identified that this type of interactive content could enhance student’s empathy skills, a key learning outcome for this module.

Screen shot from Moodle from City Vista

The main learning outcome was to prepare nursing students for their first experience of going out on placement in mental health hospitals, a potentially daunting but essential experience as part of their development on the nursing degree course. The video content provides them with a virtual introduction by the NHS staff in a London mental health ward and delivered a narrative from previous patients who describe their own experiences and observations of being in hospital.

This was an innovative project for City, where we took a blended learning approach, using multimedia and video to what would typically have been a TV documentary with print-based handouts. Our methodology for filming was truly innovative for LEaD, we had to film on a mental health ward in a busy London hospital. So having carried out a risk assessment and site visits, I planned to record with small and lightweight equipment, so as to be less obtrusive, be more agile, and to avoid any cables across the floors. For the virtual tour of the ward, the camera operator wore a head-mounted GoPro camera, I wirelessly connected my iPhone to the GoPro to monitor the images as well as to control the recording. For sound, the ward manager talking to camera wore a radio microphone and transmitter, which was connected to a receiver that I wore on my belt, that was connected to a digital audio recorder in my pocket.

There is much written about the expectations of students and their sophisticated viewing habits, so we felt it was important to film in high definition video, with clear sound reproduction and broadcast quality lighting. It was also important to aim for high quality video as all the content is then encoded and downsized to Mediaspace, as well as the likelihood of students viewing the module on their own mobile devices.

Screen shot of map of ward for virtual tour

In terms of the technology, I took a very collaborative approach in this project. Some of the team had experience of authoring with H5P, an interactive tool that is integrated within Moodle, and created links from H5P hotspots from a graphical map of the hospital ward. This was designed so that staff could navigate visually from within Moodle, for ease of use in class and later being viewed by students online. Again, with the restrictions of the Coronavirus on face to face teaching, this resource is even more valuable.

The filming on the ward had to be carefully planned as it was challenging to acquire the material. We had to exclude any patients for privacy and security reasons, and also to avoid being disruptive to their time in hospital, as patients were suffering from varying degrees of mental illness, some of whom were in an acute state. Before that we filmed a number of interviews with recovering patients and their carers, where the right blend of empathy, tact and diplomacy was essential to reach the right on-camera responses.

Screen shot of interviews with patients

The primary aim of City Vista was to engage students with authentic material. The formative evaluation showed that the majority of students found the videos to be very effective and impactful in providing them with valuable insights into the realities of working on a mental health hospital ward.

James Rutherford, Educational Technology Project Lead at City, University of London

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