Embedding care and compassion in the curriculum

Dr Denyse Hodgson; Amy Taylor, senior lecturer; Martin Colley, service user; Vicki Knowles service user
Sheffield Hallam University
Patient and Public Involvement


This was an educational development based in radiotherapy and oncology, but relevant to all health professional courses. As part of the course re-approval process we held a stakeholder meeting with service users to discuss how the programme could be enhanced.  The key outcome of that meeting was around the issue of 'care'. Service users felt that more involvement across the curriculum would help students to develop the softer skills required in practice [1]. It was agreed that PPI would be integrated in each module across the three years and a programme of what that would look like was developed.

Hodgson (2014) [2] proposed a teaching activity based on psycho-dynamic group work which was the basis for a focused PPI pedagogy [3-6]. The aim of one of the sessions was to explore care and compassion, which was influenced by the Francis Report (2013) [7,8,9]. As a teaching team we met with two service users to plan the session and we decided that in order for students to really engage and understand the concept of compassion that this should be a shared understanding. We decided group work, discussion and visual methods would result in learning that was reciprocal for students and service users.

What are the Aims?

By developing students understanding at an undergraduate level of the value of appreciating people’s experiences, the project aims to facilitate compassionate person-centred care. Compassion is perhaps an over-used and under-valued aspect of healthcare and we were trying to bring it to the fore in a meaningful and contextual way and encourage students to think more critically about their practice.

Who was/is involved?

Organisations: Sheffield Hallam University

Local service users: Jan Ellingsen, Denton Wilson, Martin Colley, Vicki Knowles, Tracy Green, Curtis Parker-Milnes

What has changed/will change?

This development regards PPI in education as a partnership approach, without hierarchy or barriers in respect of what is educationally possible. This development adopted a co-production approach in the planning and delivery of an educational activity.

What lessons have we learnt?

The process of developing this project has emphasised the importance of organisational commitment and the value of a partnership approach to learning. The patients and carers involved in the activity report that they value being involved in students training and this in turn enhances their self-esteem [1].


Student feedback is equally positive:

"I and a number of other students discussed how much we enjoyed and felt like we gained from this session. We would love more sessions like this one at any point"

"Meeting a patient and hearing about experiences helped a lot. Very moving and in my view the most effective way of gaining an insight into how the patient feels"

"I liked someone telling it in their own words it's easier to understand"

Service user and student evaluation is positive and we are also seeing a change in how students regard service users in practice. In other ways the ethos of care is evident in students’ reflections on clinical practice and the focus of their dissertation topics. Each year the students plan and organize a conference and this year the theme had a patient-centered focus and they approached someone who had recently completed treatment for breast cancer to be the key speaker. The PCs have also been proactive in feeding back their thoughts about the curriculum activities, suggesting ways they could be adapted, often between two workshops on the same day. Our protocol of session preparation and de-brief allows immediate response to their suggestions. Feedback from the students after seminars and workshops was also shared with PCs to facilitate further improvement. The next step in this project is to develop a piece of artwork in partnership with students and service users to reflect this approach to shared learning.

Contact details

Dr Denyse Hodgson, Faculty of Health & Well-being, Sheffield Hallam University
d.a.hodgson@shu.ac.uk 0114 225 5579

Links to further information and resources

1. KEENAN, G, I & HODGSON, D,A. (2014) service user involvement in health professional's education: perspectives of service users Journal of radiotherapy in Practice 13(3), 255-263.

2. HODGSON, D. (2014) Patient and Carer Involvement in the Radiotherapy Curriculum: The Impact on Students' Professional Development. Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Science 45(4), 382-389.

3. ALLAN, Helen, T. (2011) Using Psycho-dynamic small group work in nurse education: closing the theory-practice gap? Nurse Education Today 31, 521-524.

4. FABRICIUS, Julia (1991) Learning to work with feelings – psychodynamic understanding and small group work with junior student nurses. Nurse Education Today, 11, 134-142.

5. THEODOSIOUS, Catherine (2006) Recovering Emotion from Emotion Management. Sociology, 40(5), 893-910.

6. HILL, G., THOMPSON, G., WILLIS, S. & HODGSON, D. (2014) Embracing service user involvement in radiotherapy education. Radiography 20(1) 82-86.

7. Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. Chaired by Robert Francis QC. 2013.

8. Department of Health. Delivering high quality, effective, compassionate care: developing the right people with the right skills and the right values. England, Williams Lea for the Department of Health. 2013.