This is our second year of working with the RCN Prince of Wales Nursing Cadet Scheme to provide observational placements for the students at Fitzalan High School. To date we have welcomed 57 cadets on their placement in the Heath Board and the observational placements is fast becoming one of my favourite weeks of the year.
We have had groups of up to 24 cadets coming on their placement. This does require extensive planning to ensure that the cadets have an insightful, interesting but safe placement. We plan a structured timetable that provides a mixture of virtual placements in our skills training rooms, as well as escorted tours around some of our wards and departments. The virtual placements allow us to invite colleagues from departments where the cadets cannot visit to come and share their experiences. Meeting with the prison nurse and learning about nursing in the prison system was a particular highlight.
Keeping the cadets energised and engaged is really important while they are on placement. We ensure that there are plenty of activities to undertake that will give them a practical taste of what nursing and midwifery is like. There is always a lot of fun and laughter when we give our manikin patients their bed baths. We also ensure that there are plenty of breaks during the days, as the cadets have been coming on their placement during their school holidays. We want to ensure that they don’t return to school exhausted after their placement had ended.
I receive so much positive feedback from the staff who come and meet the cadets. Everyone I ask to support with a placement is very willing to share their valuable time and experience to help inspire others to join the nursing and healthcare professions. We have support from Ward Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, HCSW’s, Midwives, AHP’s, Play Specialists and Dental Nurses. Such is everyone’s enthusiasm to help with the cadet placement, that I am always being asked about when the next group is coming.
Meeting the cadets and watching them over the week’s placement is very satisfying. One cadet got to spend time in an outpatient clinic, and it was brilliant to see how happy and inspired they were afterwards. The cadets are always well prepared and ready to join in with the activities and ask lots of very interesting questions.
I remember how opportunities like this helped me to choose my career in nursing, and I’m proud to have a part in sharing this fantastic opportunity. For other healthcare providers, I would strongly recommend joining the scheme. You have a lot of support and guidance from the excellent cadet scheme co-ordinators and for 20 hours you get to share the best parts about being a nurse with (hopefully!) the next generation of NHS staff.