July 12, 2017, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham
Hitting the right notes
This week Postgraduate Placements Nottingham (PPN) chats with Liz Jones from MHA about how a placement student helped the charity streamline its music therapy provision.
Could you tell us a little about the mission of MHA?
MHA was founded by members of the Methodist Church back in 1943, and today we support over 17,000 older people – around 4,600 older people living in our care homes, 2,700 older people living independently in purpose-built apartments, and 10,300 older people living independently with the support of our Live at Home schemes across Great Britain. To do all this we rely on the commitment and dedication of 7,000 staff and 5,500 volunteers who share our values. Together we aim to provide quality housing, care and support services to meet the needs of older people across the country, bringing real quality to later life.
When you contacted PPN for help finding a suitable postgraduate placement student what were you hoping for as an organisation?
We’d worked with PPN twice before so I knew it was a great service offering a consistently high calibre of candidates which I couldn’t find anywhere else. It was important to us that the placement student be geographically close to our head office in Derby but was also able to get out and about to fully understand the services we offer. In addition, an important element of our organisational values is that placement students get paid properly for their time and the PPN match funding helped us to achieve that. To be honest I feel that the Postgraduate Placements scheme (PPN) should be much better known!
“I feel that the Postgraduate Placements scheme (PPN) should be much better known!”
Can you share a little more about the placement project itself?
Of the 1,900 people with dementia in our care homes, MHA currently helps 450-500 of them to have access music therapy. We fundraise to provide Music Therapy free to those who can benefit from it, so it is essential that our service runs as effectively as possible – being able to identify those who need it most is critical. The placement project involved a postgraduate student working closely with our Music Therapy team to develop and improve our internal processes for allocating and prioritising the music therapy offer to our residents in our care homes with dementia. It included developing clear criteria and referral processes for referral to Music Therapy, especially a mechanism that would be clear and transparent to help prioritising cases for referral based on anticipated benefit to the individual recipient, as well as better and clearer information for staff, loved ones, families and friends. It also involved a Music Therapy policy to improve awareness and understanding across the organisation, and the design of an introductory training module for new staff. Finally, it refreshed our data management policy for Music Therapy.
“Initially I had some concerns that we had made the project brief a little too ambitious but it’s to the student’s credit that she succeeded in completing the full project.”
And how did the placement student work out for you in this case?
I could tell even at the interview stage that Amy was extremely motivated to do the placement and was confident in managing her time while also studying for her PhD. Initially I had some concerns that we had made the project brief a little too ambitious but it’s to Amy’s credit that she succeeded in completing the full project. I was especially pleased with how she balanced constructive collaboration with the Music Therapy team, whose ideas were the basis of the project, against her own independence, fresh thinking and ability to offer creative challenge. These traits helped us to make sound, objective decisions in a dynamic way.
It’s great to hear how well Amy fitted into your team. How about the specific project goals and outcomes? Were they successfully met?
Yes, we now have clear policies and processes in place which will help the organisation far better communicate what the service is doing and how people can access it. Confidence in what the service provides is good and can be benchmarked favourably, and we’ve gained very valuable insights from residents and relatives during therapy sessions which can now be fully documented to improve what MHA does. It’s not exaggerating to say that ultimately the quality of life for more residents will be improved because of the project.
“It’s not exaggerating to say that ultimately the quality of life for more residents will be improved because of the project.”