The grateful student nurse

I only occasionally come in contact with student nurses these days as my current role is now mostly to deliver training to colleagues. However over the past few weeks I have had a student nurse in one of my longer courses, on which we do not usually accept students. I made an exception this time for three reasons.  Firstly, the student managed to impress me with his enthusiasm and drive to do the course, which came across with a courtesy and professionalism in his emails to me.  The second reason was that one of his mentors, a skilled clinician and trainer, was co-delivering this course with me. She vouched for him and I knew he would have the opportunity of experiencing how nurses in clinical practice can be involved in training and can be very able educators. The third reason was that I knew my co-trainer and his other mentors would ensure opportunities for him to put his learning from my course in to practice in the clinical setting.

Since the student started the course I have not regretted my decision.  He arrives early, always asks if he can do anything, is incredibly polite and has a lovely self effacing sense of humour.  He tells me each week how grateful he is to have been given the opportunity to access my course and allows me to gently tease him by asking exactly how grateful is he?  He works hard on the course, works to put his learning in to his clinical practice and is able to reflect on and synthesise his new learning with his current knowledge and skills.  He wants to get everything right and works incredibly hard to do this, although this causes him some angst.

This week we both talked about our journeys to our current roles.  Mine is a 31 year road of various roles, all of which have brought something to my learning about nursing.  He has a shorter, but none the less significant journey through care work to becoming a student nurse.  As he told me his story it struck me how others had seen significant potential in him and had offered him opportunities. What also was clear is that he holds a core, and unshakable, value of caring for others.

Reflecting on this experience I am struck by this young man, so keen and quietly determined to become a mental health nurse and, more than that, to do it well, to be the best nurse that he can be, for the sake of those who he will care for.  I now see how well honed his engagement skills are and how he uses them for professional development and not for personal gain.  I am also struck by how much I have missed working with student nurses and how invigorating their want and desire for knowledge can be and I wonder how we can reignite this in some of our now qualified nurse colleagues.

The tables have turned; I am now grateful to this young man for giving me the opportunity to work with him in one of my courses and for reminding me of how refreshing it is to work with student nurses.  I see in him, what I think others have who have also given him opportunities have seen in him.  I see someone who is worth investing in, as this will be repaid tenfold when he qualifies and where ever he works in his career.  I am grateful to be playing a small part in supporting a future mental health nurse.



The Role of Cake in Course Evaluation

Some colleagues are currently looking at how we evaluate our training, something that seems to be a perennial and unsolvable problem.  Everyone has a view on it, there is much education literature devoted to it, but there is never an ideal way of undertaking it. I was asked today to list my methods of evaluation for the different courses that I teach. I listed the usual; evaluation sheets, verbal feedback, self assessments, formative and summative assessments, trainer observation and reflection and so on.

Then I added in the lemon dribble cake method of evaluation which is used in my Motivational Interviewing courses.  These are taught one day a week for five weeks. Students are introduced to the cake-o-meter on day one and it is explained that every time they use motivational interviewing approaches and techniques with me, to help motivate me to make a cake, I will fill in part of the cake-o-meter. If they are successful and fill the whole cake-o-meter (they have always managed to do this) I will make a lemon dribble for them on day five.

But how can cake be an evaluation method? By asking the students to use the knowledge and skills they have learnt during the course in a different and fun way, they have to really think about what we have taught them.  Initially most, if not all, students in the group will resort back to the traditional methods of trying to get someone to change their behaviour. They tell me how nice it would be for me to make them a cake, how satisfying I would find it and how much they would like me to do it. They then try telling me that they have worked hard and they deserve it.  Someone will say that they don’t like lemon cake, or even any cake at all.

Slowly they realise that they have resorted back to the traditional approach and will start to use reflection and paraphrasing, then ask me how ready I am to make them a cake, how important is it and how confident  am I about making a lemon dribble cake.  As they really start to get the idea they ask what would be the good and not so good things about not making the cake and making the cake. Some adventurous students will try asking me hypothetically how it would be if I made the cake for them.

The group stops focusing on their agenda of getting the cake and switch it to my agenda which is about making the cake.  When this happens they start to find out all sorts of information about why it is called ‘dribble’ rather than drizzle, that it is made to a third generation recipe, that I make it whilst listening to The Archers and that it is important to me to mark the end of the course.

By asking the students to use their newly learnt interventions in an unexpected and light hearted manner they have to adjust and apply their learning in ways that support deep learning and help a transfer to the unexpected situation in practice.

I have observed that that, in any training, when students start playing humorously with something that they have been taught, deep learning has to have occurred.  When they play with each other and those that have taught them, when they are able to make jokes using the course contents and when they can gently tease their teachers with their new knowledge deep learning is indicated. For something to be used humorously it has to be well understood through deep learning.

So, the lemon dribble cake allows us to deliver layered learning in motivational interviewing and to use it as one method of evaluation of the course as deep learning is required by the group to complete the cake-o-meter and get the cake.