A GROUP of healthcare students recently received first-hand insight into working in a busy and challenging hospital environment.

A partnership between the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Activate Learning saw the 20 students from Reading College complete the innovative teaching programme, which involved them visiting the hospital every Wednesday for 18 months.

The students were able to learn from specialists in fields as diverse as radiography, midwifery and paediatrics, and were given access to specialist equipment like training mannequins.

The programme aims to inspire learners to take up a career in the NHS and build a pipeline of health and social care talent by taking learning outside of the classroom.

Jo Sandy, senior practice development nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, said: "I think that we have been able to help students understand what it’s like in the world of employment and what we as an employer would expect of them, both in terms of behaviour and skills and knowledge.

"As an education team we’ve learnt a huge amount about working with younger people.

"We’ve had to adapt our teaching and the experiences that we’ve given them to be able to move them forward.

"They are fabulous to work with - they're really excited and really motivated.

"This is the beginning of the journey.

"If we can engage with young people that live locally with us and get them excited about working for us, hopefully we can see that there is a future pipeline of staff for the NHS."

With the initial programme proving so successful, a second cohort will be starting at the hospital this spring.

Salwa Boon, an Activate Learning director of curriculum and delivery, said: "We believe that this is the only programme of its kind in the country, where students spend one day a week out of college and in a busy hospital where they can learn directly from experts in a real world setting.

"We are delighted to see our first cohort complete the programme, and we are pleased that so many of them have decided to now pursue a healthcare career either through further training or at university."