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Today (10 May) is International Nurses Day.

At Derwen College, we have a small team of nurses who, over the past couple of years, have been working on an important sensory health project for our students.

Nurses team, Phoebe, Karen and Kelly
Nurses team, Phoebe, Karen and Kelly

The team took part in a pilot hearing project for students – ‘Hearing Checks in Residential Special Schools and Colleges’ organised by NHS England and NHS Improvements. The nurses team worked collaboratively with an external multi-disciplinary team, across health social care and education, and with parents of students involved.

The pilot highlighted a gap in services and support offered during the transition between child to adult services, which our students often fall through. Students may not have had a hearing assessment for many years.

Personalised care

Thirty-nine students participated in the original pilot and testing was personalised to each student. To aid their understanding of the testing, the nurses used social stories, desensitisation and videos. Out of those 39 students, 16 required further intervention such as earwax management, audiology/ENT referral, microsuction treatments, and two students were identified as needing hearing aids.

The gap in testing hearing was especially proven with our students with Downs Syndrome – out of 9 who took part in the pilot, 8 of them required further action to better their ear health. The National Down Syndrome Association recommends all people with Down Syndrome, must have regular hearing tests at all ages, as more likely to experience a hearing impairment at some point in their lives.

The work Derwen College nurses team did on this pilot was nominated for the Royal College of Nursing, 2023 Nursing Awards. Although the team didn’t win on this occasion, their work is recognised as vitally important to our students, and has continued.

What next for the project?

Moving away from the pilot phase, the nurses team continue to collaborate with the multi-disciplinary team. The team have also invested in hearing test equipment, which they had trialled throughout the pilot. They have been testing the hearing of all new students, and now include a hearing check as part of annual health checks at College.

Poor hearing, permanent or temporary, can have a big impact on our students’ well-being. Identifying hearing problems and enabling them to have better hearing allows our students to connect with the world, learn new things within the education setting, lead a full and healthy life, and engage socially (even if they can not engage verbally), and can reduce the frequency and intensity of behaviours of concern.

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