As he takes on responsibility for an 84-strong team serving two local NHS treatment centres, Care UK’s Mike Burnett provides convincing proof of the benefits to students and organisations of work placement schemes.
The 28-year-old, who was recently appointed operations manager for Emersons Green and Devizes NHS treatment centres, undertook two placements as a student which gave him early, hands-on, practical experience of the world of work.
“There is only so much work you can do in a classroom or a lecture hall,” Mike explained. “Getting to put the skills into practice was always where I learned the most, particularly the human side of treating patients.”
As a BSc (Hons) student in Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation at Bristol’s University of the West of England (UWE), Mike took on placements both at Weston General Hospital and at Forest Green Rovers to complement his credentials with on-the-ground experience.
Now he applies some of the lessons from those early placements to his daily role managing all non-clinical aspects of the running of the centres. He also supports them in increasing the capacity of their theatres and endoscopy suites to ensure more appointments are available for crucial surgeries and procedures.
For the students, the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world situations is clear. But the organisations they work for benefit too, as the students bring new insights and fresh perspectives to institutions used to a particular way of doing things.
Physiotherapist Jane Pawley, who coordinates student placements at the centre, said: “I think it is good for an established team to take on work placement students as they bring a new dynamic. We take students from UWE in each year of their three-year course. In the early years they are closely supervised, but by their final year they contribute to the team in their six-week placements.”
Working with the physio team the students help patients who have undergone hip, knee and shoulder replacement surgery to recover – both after surgery and at their three and six-week follow-up appointments.
The team work with the students to ensure they are happy with the pace of work and learning, and they work with the university’s placement coordinator to ensure what is being learnt supports the curriculum.
Jane said: “Work placements teach students everything they know about working with patients and doctors, as well as what life on a ward is like. Books and classrooms are excellent ways to learn, but being hands-on is the only way to see that bodies do not all heal the same way and people respond differently to treatment.
“Not everyone who studies physiotherapy becomes a physiotherapist, but they do pick up the vital workplace skills of learning how to work with people, flexibility and organising their time.”
Just finishing his final work placement, Mike Dean is a third-year physiotherapy student at UWE. He said: “Placements are invaluable. At the centre, the team is busy and that gives me a realistic view of what working life in a hospital will be like.”
Mike, whose older sister took the same course, added: “I played a lot of rugby when I was young but was injury prone, which led to my interest in physiotherapy. The university organises work placements from the first year, which was one of things that attracted me to the course.
“I have really benefited from and greatly enjoyed my time at Emersons Green NHS Treatment Centre and my other placements, and I would encourage students to look at how placements could benefit their learning and business.”