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Work experience in hospices

Author: Jean Hindmarch, Projects Director, Hospice UK
10 June 2016

A new report from Hospice UK, written by Hilary Barnard and based on a survey of adult and children’s services, provides insights into the nature and extent of work experience in English hospices.

The survey and report were funded by Health Education England under their Widening Participation and Talent for Care initiatives which provide strategic frameworks for the development of the healthcare support workforce.

Work experience is seen by Health Education England as crucial in providing those interested in a career in health and care the opportunity to explore it further.

Publication of the report is timely as Health Education England has recently confirmed reforms to training for registered nurses and the introduction of a new nurse associate role – both delivered through apprenticeships. These announcements confirm the anticipated vocational pathway from healthcare assistant to registered nurse (1,2).

This new career pathway is being actively explored by the recently formed National Hospice Education Collaborative and is one which resonates with recommendations from the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care in its publication ‘Working towards a hospice workforce that is fit for the future’ (3).


The results of the survey, which was completed by over 50% of those eligible to participate, detail the type of work experience hospices offer and to whom, its length, the areas in which it takes place and ways in which it is promoted, managed and evaluated.

As such, the findings provide an objective basis on which to assess the contribution of hospices to work experience and the benefits of work experience placements to developing the workforce.

As demonstrated by a selection of case studies, work experience offers a vital familiarisation with the way a hospice works, its values and ethos, and the range of jobs and roles which make up its workforce.

However, as was clear from the survey, the breadth of what is encompassed by work experience needs to be better understood within the sector if best use is to be made of it.

In many instances it is perceived as a sub-set of volunteering or a ‘poor relation’ of professional placements and its success is frequently heavily reliant on personal commitment rather than a more strategic recognition of its long-term value.


The author’s recommendations focus on a series of guiding approaches and practical steps to making best use of work experience – both for the benefit of the participating individuals and the services in which they’re deployed.

The former includes recognising the business benefits, linking work experience opportunities to tangible outcomes, measuring achievement, and adopting consistent definitions of work experience across the sector. 

On a practical front, hospices are encouraged to share their own experiences across the sector and to make use of practical resources, such as the NHS/HEE work experience toolkit.

In order to redress what is often a fragmented approach to supporting work experience, the survey suggests that hospices locate responsibility for developing work experience within HR and education departments and that it merits a senior champion to encourage its sustainability and development.

Leading the way

Kate Heaps, chief executive of Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice, represents such a champion and attributes her career choices to her own experience of hospice volunteering and work experience.

Under her leadership, the hospice has fostered relationships with local colleges and universities and challenged concerns which are prevalent in some hospices about enabling younger people to volunteer.

Similar support and commitment is reflected in case studies from other hospices, for example:

  • ellenor, which offers summer schools for year 10 students
  • St Giles Hospice, which offers pre-employment courses
  • Dorothy House Hospice Care, which offers retail placements for BTEC students
  • St Oswalds Hospice, which offers HR and fundraising placements for university graduates.

The full report on the scoping study can be downloaded from Hospice UK's website.

The National Hospice Education Collaborative are also running a series of workshops on ‘The shape of caring: apprenticeships as part of workforce development’. The first of these workshop is being held in Leeds on 22 September, the second on 6 October in London.

For more information on the National Hospice Education Collaborative, supported by Hospice UK, and the workshops, contact Sally Garbett, vocational programmes manager at St Christopher’s, at


  1. Willis. Raising the Bar. Shape of Caring: A Review of the Future Education and Training of Registered Nurses and Care Assistants. Health Education England; 2015. Available from:
  2. Royal College of Nursing. Building capacity to care and capability to treat – a new team member for health and social care. Royal College of Nursing; 2016.
  3. The Commission into the Future of Hospice Care and Skills for Health. Working towards a hospice workforce that is fit for the future. Help the Hospices; 2013. Available from
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