Student wellbeing case studies

22 May 2020

The mental wellbeing of healthcare students has become an issue of growing concern for universities and practice partners in recent years. The higher education sector has seen a rise in reported mental ill-health in the general student population and escalating demand for university support services. A recent report on the wellbeing of NHS learners also indicated that only 48% described their wellbeing as good.[1] Universities across the UK have been undertaking work and developing wellbeing initiatives to meet this challenge.

Students may be particularly at risk of mental ill-health owing to several factors: the transition to university, living away from home and pre-existing social networks, balancing studying and employment and managing finances. For healthcare students there are additional risk factors, including the intensity and length of programmes, the contrast between academic and practice placement environments, practice placement transitions, workplace culture and unsocial hours. Studying in the context of Covid-19 has also added additional complexity.

Student mental wellbeing impacts on risk, regulation and student satisfaction factors for universities.[2] Student mental ill-health can negatively affect participation, retention and outcomes. The RePAIR report highlighted that feeling overwhelmed and stress are two of the main reasons that healthcare students consider leaving their studies. Other key reasons for non-continuation, such as financial concerns, workload and negative placement experiences, can have a profound and negative impact on mental wellbeing.

HEIs have a duty of care to safeguard learners at their institutions. The Equality Act 2010 enshrines in law the need for universities to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for students with disabilities, which includes those suffering from mental ill-health.

The Council has collected examples from members of initiatives they have instigated to support the mental wellbeing of healthcare students. This includes examples from a range of professional programmes and across the devolved nations.

Abertay University: Facilitating resilience through reflective practice groups

Bangor University: Improving the practice learning environment

The Institute, Guernsey: Visualising wellbeing

Middlesex University London: Canine teaching assistants

University of Essex: Developing an inclusive culture

University of Northampton: Mental health first aid

University of Nottingham: Clinical supervision & a peer research support network

University of York: Using apps to support student wellbeing

Notes

[1] Health Education England, 2019, NHS Staff and Learners’ Mental Wellbeing Commission

[2] Universities UK (2017). #Stepchange Mental Health in Higher Education

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