Kingston University bringing together student nurses and Chessington school pupils through theatre

An innovative project developed by Kingston University is using theatre to bring together student nurses and young people with learning difficulties. 

Kingston University have paired their student nurses with a buddy from St Philip’s special educational needs school in Chessington in order to perform a play together about the experiences of student nurses in the 1950s.

Associate Professor in Nursing Theresa Nash who is leading the project, in partnership with St George’s University, University of London, explained that a key factor in developing the scheme was a concern about the level of care people with learning disabilities were receiving.

She said: “At the moment nearly 40% of deaths of people with learning disabilities are due to them not getting the right care. So we have a national issue where we don’t have enough learning disability nurses and we need all nurses wither they are child, adult or mental health to develop the skills to work with people with learning disabilities.”

Ms Nash said the project had been a success and the student nurses had improved their understanding of the needs of young people with learning disabilities.

“What we are finding is that not only do the student nurses come out with enhanced skills to communicate, attuned to understand and value young people with learning disabilities but they are actually becoming champions for young people in a clinical setting,” she said.

Ms Nash partly developed the idea for a play based in the 1950s on the experiences of her mother who was a student nurse in the 1950s.

INSPIRATION: The life of trainee nurses in the 1950s was a starting point for the play.

Eli Anderson from StoryAID, a group that provides coaching on storytelling and wellbeing, helped dramatise the story of Ms Nash’s mother Helen so the buddy nurses and students could narrate the story together.

During the autumn, 20 student nurses from Kingston University rehearsed the play with students over eight workshops as well as working together to create the props, narration and production.

Eventually with assistance from Neil Myers, a St Philip’s teacher, the students performed the play in front of an audience of 200 people – the first time they had acted in front of their teachers, peers and parents.

Ms Nash explained that despite being nervous at the beginning the students from St Philip’s significantly improved their confidence during the course of the project.

“When the students first met us they were very frightened of nurses when they walked into the room for the first time the first thing they said was are you going to give us an injection?” she said.

“What we’ve found is quite extraordinary they’ve developed the confidence and courage to perform in front of 200 people.”

One key aspect of the project was to help the student nurses and young people at St Philip’s understand the differences between student nurses in the 1950s and today.

BUDDYING: The scheme has helped the nurses improve their understanding of young people with learning difficulties.

Ms Nash explained many of the differences faced by student nurses in the 1950s compared to today based upon her mother Helen’s own experiences.

She said: “You weren’t allowed to be engaged and weren’t allowed to be married. She became engaged during her time at University College Hospital and if the tutors had found she would have been asked to leave the programme. You had to keep it quiet and even when you qualified and got a job if you got married you were asked to leave.

“Where she worked children with a disability were left in hospital permanently and parents were advised either not to visit or just to visit on a Sunday for 2 hours. It was quite interesting for our nurses to go back to that time.”

Following the success of the project there are plans to develop and expand it over the next five years to include other universities and student teachers.

Related Articles