Plymouth Marjon University has been awarded £250,000 to develop further life-changing opportunities for students in the area of health and wellbeing.
The award, from the Office for Students and Research England, recognises the innovative clinics the University is involved in, in which students work closely with patients to focus on lifestyle, rehabilitation and behavioural changes. The award is designed to enable the University to develop a model which other universities could follow so that more students across the country could benefit from Marjon’s creative and immersive approach to teaching and learning in the community.
The initial focus will be a transformative evaluation, led by Dr Sue Cooper, aimed at understanding the impact on students of being involved with such activity. The students benefit from being in a close working environment directly with patients and seeing the impact of their academic learning in a real-world environment. They start out preparing materials, and observing, and reviewing sessions, then move into running small breakout groups, and finally into running full healthcare sessions.
The study will seek to evaluate this impact on students, in terms of their future careers and their personal development, and develop a model through which other universities could replicate such innovative work.
This inter-disciplinary project combines education research with sport and health science. It is led by Professor Debby Cotton, working with Professor Saul Bloxham, Dr Sue Cooper and Mr John Downey and brings together some of the organisations the students already work closely with: Macmillan Cancer Support, Livewell SouthWest, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, Sentinal Healthcare, the Environment Agency, and Devon and Cornwall Police. Activities cover a wide variety of health interventions, including reducing muscular-skeletal injuries in the police, preparing patients physically to cope with cancer treatment, managing back pain, memory clinics for those with dementia, and leg ulcer treatment.
Professor Saul Bloxham, Director of the School of Sport, Health and Wellbeing at Plymouth Marjon University, explains the philosophy behind the programmes:
‘Noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and chronic pain are associated with lifestyle risk factors. Our student-led approach prioritises patient engagement. Patients work in groups, led by researchers and by students, to understand, engage and make long-lasting changes in how they manage living with a disease. Our projects bring students, patients and professionals together in an active and exciting environment to challenge and advance our understanding of 21st century healthcare.’
Marjon is a pioneer in systems of patient education and engagement delivered in the community, and this model is increasingly being recognised as a critical part of the whole NHS care package. Helping patients to understand and manage their disease, generally working in small groups to provide long-lasting peer support and encouragement, is expected to reduce pressure on GP surgeries and hospital services, as well as improving quality of life for the patients themselves
Professor Debby Cotton, Marjon’s Director of Academic Practice, adds:
‘I’ve been immensely impressed by the opportunities students at Marjon have to engage in knowledge exchange and contribute to the local community as part of their learning experience. One of the most wonderful things about these clinics is the way students engage with people across all generations, and because everyone is there to learn, the barriers and traditional power structures are quickly broken down. We are really excited about being able to explore what students learn during these activities and to enable other universities to learn from this model.’
Find out more about Plymouth Marjon University’s Health and Wellbeing Practitioner course.