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Lived/Living Experience Anglia Ruskin Network (LEARN)

LEARN is a group of volunteers with lived/living experience of health and social care who play an invaluable role in the development and training of ARU's Nursing and Midwifery students.

Two men, one in a wheelchair, addressing an audience in a seminar room

Also known as service users, patients, or people who use services and carers (PUSC), members of LEARN really know what it's like to experience the care that our students are learning to give.

LEARN was co-designed in 2022 and our growing network of volunteers work collaboratively with ARU's School of Nursing and School of Midwifery and Community Health.

Co-production, and the mantra 'no decision about me, without me' (DOH: 2012) are central to our work at all times. Find out more about co-production and some of the acronyms we use (PDF).

As a member of LEARN, your feedback has the power to shape both our students' future practice and the content of our Nursing and Midwifery courses.

Who can volunteer for LEARN?

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Everyone accesses healthcare services at some point in their lives, whether as a patient themselves or as a carer for a loved one.

We therefore have working groups to represent a range of experiences, including living with dementia, managing a long-term condition, accessing maternity services, and getting support for a mental health condition.

We also welcome representatives of groups who use services, such as charity staff, and advocates.

Email us at [email protected] to find out more and start the application process

Working groups

As a member of LEARN, you can share your lived/living experience by joining one or more of the following working development groups.

A woman talking to another woman, whose back is to the camera, in a group session

Do you, or someone you care for, use District Nursing services? By sharing your expert knowledge and collaborating with our District Nursing course team, you can help shape all parts of the design, delivery and evaluation of the programme, ensuring that the district nurses of tomorrow receive relevant, up-to-the-minute training that takes account of your living/lived experiences.

A woman drinking from a mug at a laptop, with a baby in one arm and a toddler in a walker next to her

If you have living/lived experience of health visiting and/or school nursing services, by sharing your views, you can help ensure our Specialist Community Public Health Nursing course (SCPHN) course's curriculum design, delivery, and evaluation are up-to-date and incorporate the voices of families, young people, and children.

A young man in a wheelchair using a tablet and hearing headphones

If you, or someone you care for, have living/lived experience of clinical care, you can help students on our Advanced Practice course understand what it's like. In doing so, you'll help ensure tomorrow's higher-level practitioners, leaders, educators, and researchers in nursing, allied health, and pharmacy effectively manage clinical care in partnership with individuals, families, and carers.

A young man on a sofa wearing headphones and waving at a laptop

By sharing your lived/living experience as part of the Pre-Registration Nursing Working Group, you can work with staff across all our undergraduate Nursing courses to improve curriculum design, and help student nurses understand what it's like to navigate the health and social care sector from the point of view of someone accessing their services.

You can help Nursing students at the very start of their careers to gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours that enable them to deliver nursing care across a wide range of health and care settings, with different client groups – in hospital, in the community, with adults, children, people with mental health conditions, and those with learning disabilities.

A man in a wheelchair recording a video tutorial at home using a digital camera and tripod

Involvement of service users in all the stages of simulated practice learning placement design is crucial to providing our students with realistic practice learning experience.

As a member of LEARN's PLtS sub-group, you can help us provide student nurses with opportunities to engage in practice learning within a safe environment. By sharing your own health and care experiences, you can enhance their knowledge, skills and attitudes.

A seated pregnant woman holding a mug and looking at a laptop

If you are currently accessing maternity services, or have accessed them within the last five years, you can help train our student midwives to provide a safe and inclusive service to our communities in the East of England. We meet monthly on Teams to discuss aspects of our Midwifery curriculum.

We also offer opportunities to co-produce learning resources for the curriculum and share your lived experiences to enhance our students' learning, although these are not a requirement for involvement in the working group.

Other ways to get involved

Back view of a man addressing a video meeting on a desktop computer

In addition to our working groups, we offer The Lived Experience Panel (LExP) – a bimonthly space for LEARN volunteers and staff to meet one another, discuss their experiences of co-production as part of the group, and share any updates.

We also occasionally offer opportunities to help our students learn in the classroom, contribute to regulatory events for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), and take part in conferences.

How to join LEARN

A man sitting on a sofa typing on a laptop

There are a variety of ways to get involved, whether it's through working groups or classroom activities. All work with LEARN is completely flexible and we are happy to work with you, so that you can find an involvement level that is convenient.

You'll need to complete a short application form. If you're interested in classroom activities, you'll also need to undergo equality, diversity, and inclusion training.

To get involved, email us at [email protected]

We'll organise an informal chat to get to know you a bit better and learn about why you would like to join us and what you can bring to the LEARN group, before guiding you through the application process, which includes a short application form.

We offer an optional contribution payment for your time and support, as well as travel expenses to campus. If you would like further information on this, we can go through this with you.

  • We recently received two commendations from the NMC for our work with LEARN and volunteers' input onto our courses.
  • In 2022, we co-presented a joint presentation with LEARN titled 'Co-production, co-design or collaboration - how can we achieve meaningful involvement in nursing curriculum development?' at the 28th International Mental Health Nursing Research Conference.

Dr Gail Sinfield

Service User Lead

Gail Sinfield

Dr Gail Sinfield qualified as a Registered General Nurse in 1989 and has had a varied career working both in hospital and community settings. Gail joined ARU in 2009.

Gail has worked in a variety of roles since qualifying as a nurse. These have included Accident and Emergency, Social Services, School Nursing and as a Nurse Advisor. At ARU, Gail has undertaken a variety of roles as Personal Tutor, Module Tutor, Module Leader and Course Leader.

Gail has an interest in anaphylaxis and the mechanisms and management of allergy, which formed her MSc research activity. Gail completed her Professional Doctorate in Health and Social Care with a thesis entitled “Lecturers' experiences of service user involvement in nurse education,” and is interested in working with service users and students to help facilitate nurse education and enhance patient care.

Gail likes to work collaboratively and to discuss ideas and enjoys teamwork that motivates learning. She currently works as part of the apprenticeship team, and is a Personal Tutor for Nursing apprenticeship courses and Service User Lead for Cambridge and Peterborough. Gail has an interest in coaching development in teaching and learning.

Ceri Jones

Service User and Carer Engagement Facilitator

Ceri Jones, Service User and Carer Engagement Facilitator

Ceri Jones is the Service User and Carer Engagement Facilitator for the School of Midwifery and Community Health (which also covers Continuing Professional Development). She began her career is a caseworker assisting people claiming social security benefits and has decades of living/lived experience of the NHS, giving her the desire to amplify marginalised voices in healthcare education.

As a Medical Anthropology Masters graduate, she has a special interest in how people with complex intersecting identities interact with the structures, systems and agencies around them, learning more about how we can incorporate their voices to ensure they are not just listened to but heard and included within practice to create true co-production.

Louise Cook

Service User and Engagement Facilitator

Profile photo of Louise Cook

Louise Cook qualified as a Registered Nurse (Adult) in 2012 and has an interest in Adult Social Care and Dementia care. She is a Service User and Carer Engagement Facilitator for the School of Nursing.

Since qualifying as a nurse in 2012, Louise has worked across several different settings within Health and Social Care. She obtained a Certificate in Education (lifelong learning sector) in 2015 and a MSc in Dementia Studies in 2020 with the University of Stirling.

Having worked across residential, academic, hospital and local authority environments, Louise has developed a passion for education, adult social care and dementia care. Louise joined ARU in January 2022 as a Service User and Carer Engagement Facilitator, and within this role she works closely with service users and supports their involvement on our courses.

Following completion of her MSc in Dementia Studies, Louise’s main research focus has been in relation to knowledge transfer and delivery of training, as well as improving quality of life for those living with dementia.

As a Service User and Carer Engagement Facilitator, she is looking at ways in which service user involvement can be embedded into the nursing curriculum. Louise has a keen interest in promoting co-production and developing this within nursing education across all branches.