Part of the team – BSc Nursing admissions interviews

Joan Cook, Yvonne Clark, Alan Williams, Aimee Aubeeluck
University of Nottingham
Patient and Public Involvement


This educational development has established service users and carers alongside academics and practice colleagues as members of teams interviewing candidates for BSc Nursing courses. Involvement of service users and carers in admissions was one of the aims set out in the School’s 2007 Strategy for Service User and Carer Involvement, and has subsequently become an area of particular interest for commissioners and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, forming a key part of the Values Based Recruitment approach.  A change from individual to group interviews opened the chance for service users and carers to take part, and this has evolved through feedback from 2010 to currently, with trained public members taking part in all interview days, having an equal voice and now giving independent scores for all candidates they see, and paid for their time and expenses.  Training is run annually by a service user, admissions tutors and the development worker.

What are the Aims?

The aim is for people using health services to be part of the decision making process and having a voice in who will become health professionals of the future, with this viewpoint valued equally alongside those of current professionals and teachers, and candidates introduced to working with service users and carers from the very start of their health professional education journey.

Who was/is involved?

Development worker Joan Cook, Service User and Carer Advisory Group Chair Yvonne Clark, Admissions Tutors Alan Williams, Aimee Aubeeluck and previously Gail Mitchell, administrator Mandy Walker, with lecturers, service users and carers, practice staff and student ambassadors.

What has changed/will change?

Although involvement in admissions was included in the School’s 2007 involvement strategy, this was not feasible logistically for the large numbers of individual interviews conducted at that time.  When the format changed to group interviews in 2010-11, the development worker took the opportunity to work on this with members of the Service User and Carer Advisory Group and admissions tutors.  Three service users and the development worker attended the initial staff training, took part in the first season of interviews and gave feedback. Formats and details of the selection days have evolved in response to logistics, regulatory changes, feedback from participants and candidates, and an evaluation in 2014.

Training is co-produced and run annually, as an introduction or refresher, including jargon busting, course background, service user and admissions tutor perspectives, equality and diversity, and a short roleplay of a group interview situation.  In one year, two current students joined the training, took part in the roleplay, and gave their perspectives – this had mixed feedback on its usefulness and has not been repeated, but the training may be open to students taking part in interviews if this happens in future. Feedback on the training included ‘very comprehensive and helps to prepare for the day’.

Aspects seen as working well in the 2014 survey included ‘having three people from different perspectives working together to reach a decision for a score and comments (teacher, service user and clinician)’, and ‘discussing before the interview how we were going to conduct the interview and what role each person would take on. Feeling free to ask questions and observing. Always being treated as an equal, especially on the final decisions with regards to marking the candidates at the end of the interview.’  While there have been occasional incompatibilities in teams, the main difficulties have been logistical, particularly distances between briefing and interview rooms, and efforts have been made to book rooms closer together and to better match interviewers with mobility restrictions to rooms.  Meeting and being interviewed by service users and carers has been valued by candidates.

What lessons have we learnt?

This year has introduced extra dates on Saturdays when more rooms are available, and all interviewers now giving independent scores for each candidate instead of the panel agreeing a group score. From interim informal feedback this seems to be giving a fully equal voice to all panel members, but was daunting at first, and people have needed to build up confidence.  Bookings were initially arranged via the development worker, liaising with the administrator. This has now been taken on by the selection day administrator, with arrangements for service users and carers largely integrated with those for academics and practice staff, the administrator aware of access needs and sensitivities, and support available from the development worker if needed. Service users and carers have taken part in all selection days in the last few years, but by no means in all interviews, and we will look at the feasibility of doing this in future.

An experienced group of interviewers has been built up, who have taken part in interviews for other courses, and worked with Physiotherapy admissions staff to develop a new interview format currently being run for the first time.

Contact details

Joan Cook (