London Ambulance Service NHS Trust’s initiative Training Stations won the Workforce Award at the 2016 HSJ Awards.
The Workforce Award, sponsored by NHS Professionals, was presented to the Training Stations team at the award ceremony at the InterContinental O2, London on 23 November.
We spoke to Kier MacLean, Training Stations Development Manager at London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, to find out more about the Training Stations and their plans for the future.
How did it feel to win the Workforce category?
We were absolutely shocked. We were already so pleased to have been shortlisted that we couldn’t believe it when they called our name to say we had won! We had worked hard on our presentation to the judges and were quite happy with how it went, but when we saw who we were up against we didn’t expect to win at all.
We feel that winning this award will make a real difference to the Training Stations and our team. It’s been a great boost to everybody involved.
Can you describe what training stations are?
All the new entrant Emergency Ambulance Crew staff that come to work for the London Ambulance Service have to complete a 20 week course and have a supervised supernumerary placement before they can staff an emergency ambulance. Before we started the Training Station programme, these placements were organised by local management teams and it was difficult to ensure the consistency of the support and mentoring offered by practice educators. Many of our new entrants have come from a non-clinical background so it is important to ensure they are supported well when they first start to experience the reality of Accident & Emergency prehospital medicine. Under the Training Stations programme, any new entrant will come to us for their five week clinical placement. We have five stations across London where specially selected mentors will come and look after the new staff for this critical period of their transition to becoming full-time clinicians.
Why did London Ambulance Service Trust introduce Training Stations?
The main reason was to support new staff. It’s a scary time for them so we wanted to make the environment as supportive as possible so that our new staff feel comfortable. The Training Stations are supported by our Operations Directorate who are responsible for ambulance provision and service delivery. Allowance is made for Training Station crews, which means there is an understanding that they may need extra time to sit down, debrief and reflect on the specific incidents or the placement in general.
We assign one mentor to every two Trainee Emergency Ambulance Crew (TEACs). This allows the mentor to take a step back so that the trainees can work as if they were a normal ambulance crew; the mentor just overseeing what they’re doing. We find that this provides a more realistic reflection of normal ambulance crew working and prepares trainees for working as part of a two-man crew. This was also an effective way of providing placements for new staff with our best mentors; we were able to place 700 new staff with experienced clinical mentors without compromising on quality or consistency.
How useful have the students found the Training Stations?
We conduct a staff survey of all our “graduates” and we have a 98% satisfaction rate; which we’re delighted with. The staff feel so supported and think it’s great.
How would other Ambulance Trusts benefit from Training Stations?
Retention of staff is one of the key benefits for us. We set our trainees up for long and fruitful careers with the London Ambulance Service and we help them integrate into the organisation. The stations also provide an opportunity for our experienced paramedics and other clinical staff to develop as mentors and clinical leaders. We can place up to 10 clinical mentors at each Training Station and offer development time for them in addition to the mentoring experience. Many of our mentors have gone on to become Clinical Team Leaders – clinical managers responsible for a team of experienced paramedics and other clinicians.
What is the structure of the Training Station team?
I’m the manager and we have five Clinical Team Leaders; one for each Training Station. The Clinical Team Leader manages and supports all the mentors, trainees and students and keeps everything running smoothly at each station. They also provide a “mentor of mentors” type function; an experienced clinical leader who mentors can discuss any issues or concerns that they may have with their team’s progress and look to for advice.
As a management team we have a real sense of ownership of the programme and take full responsibility for it and how well it is organised and run. We know exactly what’s happening with all our mentors and trainees and if there are any issues we’re able to resolve them quickly within our team.
What makes a good mentor?
A good mentor is someone who understands what each student needs. Someone who gives their students time and has the patience to develop them. Many of our new entrants have no prior clinical experience so this is a key characteristic we look for. Equally, the trainees will experience many “firsts” with their mentors: first baby delivered, first cardiac arrest attended, first seriously ill or injured child attended to. We look for mentors who are going to recognise these “firsts” and support their trainees through them.
Are there any challenges to running the Training Stations?
We have lots of experienced clinicians volunteering to be mentors, but the balance between operational pressures and the need to second staff away from their usual place of work leads to challenges and we have relied on the good faith of local managers to release their staff to us without backfill. The benefit to the local teams is that in the medium term we will provide them with a net increase of staff against what they second out to us. Generally local teams have been very forthcoming and helpful, but having dedicated senior management support has been key in championing the programme within the organisation and resolving issues like this.
What are the future plans for Training Stations?
A proposal has been written to make Training Stations a permanent, funded, fixture in the London Ambulance Service and we’re awaiting the outcome. Winning the HSJ Workforce Award has certainly raised our profile and will help our case!
If the proposal is approved, we’ll have permanent mentors at the Training Station, which means we can plan further in advance and take on more trainees.
Any final comments?
We were selected by senior managers to run the Training Station programme and we’re really grateful for their support. We’ve been supported to acknowledge that this is a critical time in a clinician’s career and do things differently. This will make a difference in the long term, to the benefit of staff, patients and the Trust.
Congratulations London Ambulance Service NHS Trust. NHS Professionals was extremely proud to sponsor the Workforce Award at this year’s HSJ Awards.