SLCs increase vision awareness amongst medical students

Merseyside Sight Loss Council (SLC) is working with Liverpool University healthcare students to increase vision awareness and influence their work with future patients. Our aim is to improve their understanding of the challenges and barriers blind and partially sighted (BPS) people face when accessing various health settings.

Work started with the university in 2023, when SLC members and the northwest Engagement Manager, Kelly Barton, went along to deliver a lecture-style session. These sessions were delivered to first, second and third-year nurses.

Following this, we also delivered sessions to radiography, physiotherapy, ophthalmology and medical students.

The work will continue into 2024 when our SLC returns in July to deliver a vision awareness session to first-year nursing students and other courses.

Two female university students during the sighted guide session in the auditorium. Kelly Barton, Engagement Manager for northwest England, is stood to the left hand side of them.

Two female students during the sighted guide session in the lecture hall

How we delivered our vision awareness sessions

We delivered two types of sessions. This included larger sessions in lecture theatres where volunteers shared their stories and presented about Thomas Pocklington Trust and SLCs.

Our other sessions were smaller, and classroom-based, allowing us to deliver more intimate vision awareness sessions.

Liverpool University healthcare students sitting at tables, trying on simulation spectacles.

Students in a classroom, trying on simulation spectacles

Using the sim specs

During these sessions, we invited some students to use the simulation glasses (sim specs) and learn how to guide BPS people. Simulation glasses are special glasses which simulate various eye conditions that people may have. In the session with the nurses, Julie Bennett, an SLC volunteer, invited a few students to the front to use the sim specs. We then tasked the students with identifying different tablets (for this exercise, sweets were used instead of real medicines).

Feedback from the sessions

Kelly Barton, Engagement Manager for North West England, said:

“We are really enjoying working with the students at Liverpool University. It’s a fantastic opportunity to talk to students about the barriers that blind and partially sighted people face in accessing health services, as they embark on their careers.

“We hope they will carry this knowledge and understanding into their future work.”

Mick Spriggs, Merseyside SLC member, said:

“It’s great to share my experiences with others. To give the students a better understanding of how sight loss can affect you when you’re trying to access various types of healthcare appointments.

“I am so pleased that I’m able to share this with them and help them in their future careers so that they can better support blind and partially sighted people.”

Clare Walker, Director of Studies for nursing at Liverpool University, said:

“From my perspective, it’s imperative that our student nurses hear from blind and partially sighted people about their experience of accessing healthcare and being cared for. This allows our students to ask questions and hear directly from potential future patients. This allows students to reflect upon their practice and develop their skills for future clinical training.”

Two female medical students during the sight guide training. One is wearing sim specs, and the other is guiding their colleague through a doorway.

Two female students during the sighted guide session. One student is guiding a fellow student, and they are shown walking through a doorway

Student feedback about the sessions

“[This session] raised our awareness of the issues faced by visually impaired patients.”

“It gave me more of an insight towards the different types and levels of sight loss. It helped me understand how to guide people with sight loss.”

“It was new and interesting to learn about this from people who experience it!”

“It was really helpful and will be useful to me in the future – thank you!”

“Learning how to guide someone with visual impairment and also being able to see what it feels like to walk around with a visual impairment.”

Mike Wright, Merseyside SLC volunteer, standing behind a table during his presentation in a classroom. His head is turned to the side and he is smiling. He is wearing a pale blue Sight Loss Council t-shirt, and in the background is an overhead projector with his name and photo on it.

Mike Wright, Merseyside SLC member, in a classroom during the vision awareness sessions

About Sight Loss Councils

Sight Loss Councils are led by blind and partially sighted members and funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust. We advocate the needs of visually impaired people in our communities and work to improve access to goods and services at a local and national level.

If you would like to collaborate with Merseyside Sight Loss Council on a project, please get in touch.

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Publication date: 21 May 2024

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