Developing Mental Health students through a Service User ‘Buddying’ scheme


When did you first introduce the innovation?

More than 24 months ago

Please describe the innovation you have developed

Anglia Ruskin University in collaboration with Health Education East of England (HE EoE) and South Essex Partnership Trust (SEPT) implemented the Buddy Scheme for students undertaking the Mental Health Field of the Pre-Registration Nursing course.

The Buddy Scheme, aimed at level 5 students, offers mental health nursing students the opportunity to learn to ‘put the patient first’ and to develop in ‘caring, compassionate and considerate nursing’.

Each student participating in the scheme engages with an identified service user who acts a ‘Buddy’ in a series of structured meetings. During these meetings the students enquired with sensitivity and respect about the service user’s experience of living with mental illness within the context of the family, work and the wider community.

Students and Buddies use a common workbook that identifies guideline questions that were helpful during the meetings. Students reflect on how they are asking the questions and also comment on how they will use the knowledge from the Buddies to inform future engagement with service users.

What prompted you to develop this innovation?

Compassion was found wanting amongst some health care professionals (Francis Report, 2013) and the expectation for professionals to listen to and treat service users with dignity, empathy and respect in line with Compassion in Practice (DH 2012) and The NHS Constitution (2013).

To increase the educational and practice experience of students.

A methodology to increase student confidence in service user engagement.

The buddy scheme was originally developed by the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Trust.

In your view, what is it about this innovation that makes it different/important?

This innovation is different as it promotes students to engage with Service Users in a different way which promotes a deeper understanding of their experiences.

It enhances the experience of practice placement.

Impacts on how students will engage with their profession in the future.

To what extent does your innovation make use of existing approaches, resources or technologies?

This project builds on the networks and relationships already present as part of the Mental Health Field of the Pre-Registration Nursing course

To what degree has this innovation led to changes in education or clinical practice?

Due to the success of the project it is being continued into the next academic year.

Significant student impact (see below).

What evidence do you have of the impact of the innovation?

Benefits to Students:

  • The Students found the scheme invaluable to their development;
  • They acknowledged that the scheme has given them the rare opportunity to
engage with a service user in a meaningful way, which is not possible in their
normal placement;
  • They spoke about their increased confidence in relation to communicating
and with building rapport with Service Users;
  • They talked about their greater understanding of the experience that a service
user goes through whilst living with a mental illness;
  • They recognised that some Service Users have had negative experience whilst in care, and they were determined to make a difference when they
qualify by listening more to the service users;
  • All the students were unanimous in endorsing the scheme for other students

Benefits to Buddies:

  • Buddies were positive about their involvement in it;
  • Buddies talked highly about personal gains and their pleasure in being given the opportunity to contribute to the development of the next generation of nurses;
  • They welcome the support they have received for their role at the university;
  • They viewed participating in the scheme aids their self -esteem and recovery;
  • Buddies commented about increased self-awareness and being able to ‘off-
load’, an unintended outcome of the scheme;
  • To some buddies, the scheme has added strength to the empowerment of
service users. They would like to contribute to the revision of the workbook and take ownership of the scheme if given the opportunity.

To what degree has the innovation been disseminated in your organisation or elsewhere?

Project report.

Departmental dissemination.

Please provide details of any plans you have to disseminate the innovation in the future.

Case study for the Faculty Learning & Teaching website.