First year students on the BSc Paramedic Science course at Oxford Brookes University would normally spend two weeks at Mallard House, PJ Care’s neurological care centre in Milton Keynes, shadowing staff to understand residents’ care needs.
PJ Care provides specialist neurological care for adults with degenerative conditions such as dementia, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It also offers rehabilitation for people with acquired brain injuries.
But the doors of Mallard House, along with its sister sites, Bluebirds and Eagle Wood in Peterborough, have been closed to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rather than miss out on the placements altogether, students have been invited ‘into’ the centre via online training sessions.
“The people who live with us have a range of conditions which affect their ability to communicate and their behaviour, so we are able to offer students a chance to experience things they might not otherwise come across,” said PJ Care’s Head of Training, Alexander Balicki.
“Not only does it help students when they start working in the community, it also helps our residents, and people with similar needs, if and when we need paramedic support.”
Students were invited to take part in the care provider’s multi-disciplinary team meetings in which residents’ health and wellbeing are discussed by PJ Care’s in-house neuro-psychiatrist, psychologist, doctor, occupational therapist, nurse and carers.
Student Paula Ventura said it was a fascinating insight.
“I didn’t know what to expect but it was so interesting to see how they approach people’s care,” she said.
“Input from the whole team means there is medical knowledge combined with on-the-floor experience, and nothing is missed because they’re discussing issues face to face.
“I have no real experience of this type of neurological care so it was really useful to understand that changes in a person’s behaviour are often because their needs are not being met or something else is going on for them.
“I was amazed at how well they all know all of their residents!
“The sessions were really helpful. Having this knowledge changes my way of seeing the world; when I’m out in practice, I will have it more in the forefront of my mind.”
As well as being part of the three hour sessions, students were also invited to a bespoke lecture on the brain by Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist and Clinical Director at PJ Care, Dr Allan Perry.
Practice Education Lead for the degree course at Oxford Brookes, Sian Lavers, said placements like these are an essential part of a paramedic’s education.
“Over the course of their studies, students usually spend time in a care environment, at a GP surgery, at a special school and a range of other settings but PJ Care gives them experience of neurological conditions they might not otherwise come across.
“We didn’t want to contribute to the infection risk in any way, or put students at risk, but, equally, we didn’t want them to miss out on this experience.
“We are extremely grateful to the staff at PJ Care who gave up their time to make these sessions possible.”