The course inspiring young people to support others at the end of life

Categories: Care, Education, and Featured.

St Christopher’s Hospice in south east London have been running a summer school for young people interested in end of life care for the last six years. With the disruptions to studies caused by Covid-19 this year, Programme Lead Kathy Morris believed it was more important than ever to offer an extra-curricular opportunity, and so the hospice ran its first ever virtual programme in July. Here she tells us what the students learnt from it.

When we started the Summer School in 2014, the emphasis was very much on providing 16 to 19- year-olds with an opportunity to have a window into the world of health and social care, and with a view to embarking on a career in one of these sectors. This year, in line with our overall education ethos, we transitioned to focus more towards social and societal change, and so we created the ‘Focus on End of Life Care programme’.

One of the Course Tutors and the Education Consultant at St Christopher’s, Liz Bryan, explains more about this shift: “We took the opportunity to switch the focus more to citizenship and community engagement, getting young people to think about long term conditions, what they mean to people, how they become socially isolated and their ability to respond to that isolation.

“We wanted young people to think beyond just career opportunities in nursing or caring, and to consider their place in society, volunteering, and being more aware of the needs of their peers with a disability, for example.”

Learning about community

In practical terms, the two groups of young people spent two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon every day for a week, engaged in interactive sessions, some as a whole cohort but often in much smaller groups. They covered some of the original course content including the history and purpose of St Christopher’s and hospices more generally, as well as communication skills.

In addition, the young people addressed the attributes of a helper, the concept of community and the importance of community involvement in caring for people at the end of life.

In the interactive real time sessions, they also got to engage with our heads of volunteering, bereavement and community engagement who all provided practical insights from personal experience, as well as from one of our young patients. This, combined with the range of resources on our online learning platform provided the attendees with a full learning experience, and one which Liz is confident could transfer beyond this age-specific group to any cohort from the community keen to understand more about the role of the hospice, community and citizenship.

Teaching real-life experiences

The feedback from the young people who attended is probably best summed up by a student who said: “The programme has gone beyond my expectations as the course was diverse in the content we were studying, the way the content was being delivered and the range of speakers and videos. It was an enjoyable five days and I really enjoyed the case studies, which provided a grounding in real-life situations.”

At the end of the week the attendees had to submit an assignment. They were asked to design a poster or PowerPoint presentation that illustrated their understanding of community, how a life-limiting condition can cause social isolation and their ideas for helping people overcome this. There will be a prize for the best assignment.

We are also planning to hold a graduation ceremony, at which all successful students will receive a City & Guilds qualification.

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