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Communication & Covid 19 - a presentation and paper from students of St. Andrew's University's ScotGem course

Update from Care Opinion Scotland

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picture of Fraser Gilmore

This year Care Opinion were delighted to offer 2 placements to first year medical students from St. Andrews University’s ScotGEM course from February to April 2021. Our students Dan Newton and Andrew Blain were tasked with doing some research into stories on Care Opinion, finding a topic that interested them and consider how they would like to present their findings.  

Working together, Dan and Andrew decided that they were going to look into “The experiences of patients, relatives and carers of communication during the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland” and that they were going to present their findings as both an online presentation and a written paper.

The presentation was held online on the 20th April at 2pm, a recording of which can be viewed below:

You can find the presentation they shared on the day here: Covid 19 and communication presentation.pdf

And you can read the full paper that was written by Dan and Andrew here: The experiences of patients and their relatives and carers of communication during the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland - Andrew Blain & Dan Newton.pdf

As this was the first time the Scotland team have hosted placements from St. Andrews University, we asked our students questions about their placement and here is what they had to say…

Dan Newton

Dan Newton

Why did you choose Care Opinion for your placement?

When I researched Care Opinion after it appeared on our list of options, it sounded like a very modern, efficient and simple way to make care better for those it matters to most.  What better way to understand how best to deliver patient-centred care than to read and analysing the stories of those who experience it? I read Care Opinion’s mission on their website and delved into some of the stories, and what struck me was that many changes were being made purely due to feedback through the website, it sounded impactful and like something I wanted to get involved with.

Why did you choose this topic to focus on?

Given the recency and huge impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Andrew and I both agreed that we wanted to focus on that in some way. We did our initial research and were overwhelmed by the number of possible avenues we could go down. However, the theme of communication and how it has been affected kept cropping up when we were doing our fact-finding. It was clear that the pandemic had impacted communication in some very real ways, and that this was what both patients and their carers were focussing on, almost to the exclusion of everything else. It is fundamental to good experiences of care and we wanted to understand exactly what had gone wrong and what people had done about it.

How will this project impact on your future studies/practice?

This was a brilliant opportunity to read large numbers of patient experiences and understand what mattered to them. What really jumped out at me when I did this was that what actually matters to people are the simple things that are often overlooked. People want to be kept in the loop as much as possible, they want to know what is happening and what can be expected to happen in the future, and they become frustrated when these simple things aren't done correctly. I want to consider things from all points of view, keep everyone in the loop at all stages, and make sure people understand what is happening and why that is. I hope to never lose sight of these basic but crucial points as I move through my studies and future career,


Andrew Blain

Andrew Blain 

Why did you choose Care Opinion for your placement?

There is only so much you can learn in textbooks, where you learn disease processes in an ideal scenario. I really wanted to gain a better understanding of the human side of medicine, and I felt that Care Opinion granted me the access to better understand what truly matters to patients. 

Why did you choose to focus on this topic?

The pandemic is a highly unique strain on the health service, and we were keen to learn and understand the distinct challenges faced in all facets of healthcare in this current climate. We hoped to potentially identify good practice which could be built upon throughout the health service post-covid, and discover areas which had scope for improvement. Since the theme of communication includes a wide array of parties which contribute to healthcare experiences, both Dan and I felt that this would be a great subject to explore further. 

How will this project impact my future studies?

This has been a very useful exercise and it has heightened my awareness of the need for proper and effective communication delivered timeously and sensitively between different parties. I found the stories which discussed the communication between relatives and those caring for patients diagnosed with Covid particularly insightful, as the openness and honesty of discussions was cited extremely positively in the majority of accounts. As I continue to hone my clinical interaction skills, I intend to use this insight to generate more positive and higher yield interactions with patients. 

"We were absolutely delighted to offer this placement to St Andrews University ScotGEM students. Dan and Andrew both showed great passion and dedication in their research and it was a joy to work with them both. Everyone at Care Opinion wishes Dan and Andrew all the best in their future studies and careers" Fraser Gilmore, Head of Scotland, Care Opinion


Response from Helen Newton on

I must admit to some bias here, as the mother of one of the students who did this work. However, as a consultant in Acute Medicine in England, these are issues we come up against all the time and I really recognise the themes. 

Although I see many examples of good practice in my work, I am afraid that misinformation, inconsistent information and lack of information sometimes feel like the norm in a busy hospital setting. This should not be the case and it would be good to see a real drive to improving the service we provide in this area. Embedding good practice (working out how best to deliver a good service under pressure) in this area in all our staff when they train, is a great start. The rest of us will need some revision perhaps.

Well done Andrew and Dan.

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