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The University has been shortlisted for the Student Quality Ambassador (SQA) Project in the categories of the Best Student Experience and Partnership of the Year in the Student Nursing Times Awards SQA Project Lead Yvette Heatley has also been named individually as a finalist in the Educator of the Year award.

The SQA project is funded by Health Education England North West, hosted by the University of Chester, collaborating with 11 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the North West.

The aims of the SQA project are to take the most innovative and motivated healthcare students from across all healthcare disciplines and North West universities and provide them with the experience, opportunities and support to role models and influence the quality of healthcare positively. SQA innovations have a massive impact on service user and provider experience and foster the development of personal leadership qualities and innovative thinking required from the healthcare leaders of the future.

The SQA project has been transformed over the past 12 months by SQA Project Lead Yvette Heatley. In response to COVID-19, the scheme was converted into a remote project which created an effective platform for SQAs to collaborate with fellow SQAs across the region. This fostered a culture of cross-professional working, as well as greater networking capabilities between universities and colleges. 

An incentive for healthcare students joining the SQA project is the Development Programme which was delivered online. This provides development in areas such as quality improvement, communication and resilience and has also facilitated a number of high-profile guest speakers from around the region, who inspire the SQAs through discussions around their own project work. Topics have included Admiral Nursing (specialist dementia care), Family Integrated Care, LGBT Healthcare and Social Prescribing.

The relaunch of the SQA Project during the pandemic created a platform for students to work collaboratively, at a time when could have felt isolated disconnected from University life and practice learning. Being an SQA gave many students a sense of ‘control’ and an ability to initiate change.


The SQA Project empowers students to represent the student voice at a strategic level, providing student consultation within projects such as RePAIR, a national Health Education England (HEE) initiative to keep more people within pre-registration healthcare programmes and SQAs contribution has provided a key insight into the experiences of healthcare students and their peers which is vital in improving attrition and retention rates in the UK. This participation of students in high-level decision-making has inspired the formation of an ‘Educator Toolkit’, to support colleagues in practice who are supervising students, to ensure that they have a positive learning experience.

SQAs have positively also impacted on work to address the challenges around placement capacity for healthcare students by working with regional forums such as the North West Practice Education Group. The positive changes within practice learning will be a key legacy of the efforts of SQAs, which will continue to improve the experiences of future students and healthcare workforce.

The coaching model used within the Student Quality Ambassador Project creates a culture of innovation and confidence to bring about change. Evidence of this can be seen in SQAs who have used their newly-acquired leadership to represent Students within their University including leading professional societies as well as forums such as the Royal College of Nursing.

The Student Quality Ambassador Project has become a forum of innovative healthcare students, who are representing the student voice across the region, connecting universities, placement providers and the NHS. The Student Quality Ambassador Project is a true example of partnership-working, with student leadership driving change forward.

SQA Project Lead Yvette Heatley, said: “To make the finals of the Student Nursing Times awards is a true testament to the hard work of the Student Quality Ambassadors. The SQA project has shown what can be achieved through collaborative working with HEIs and organisations across a wide footprint. In addition, leading the SQA project, with the support of the University of Chester’s Faculty of Health and Social Care has enabled me to develop myself professionally within academia.”

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