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Course Design Blueprint

Service Users

The term 'service user' is commonly used within the health professions.  The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) uses the term to refer to those who use or are affected by the services of professionals registered with the HCPC, and expects to see evidence of their involvement in programmes that the HCPC approves (see the Service user and carer involvement page on their website for guidance).

Almost all employment roles involve some sort of 'service user' and enabling students to consider their provision for, support of, or impact on such people is a powerful way of grounding the students' learning.  It is often very helpful for students if they perceive who their service users are, both directly and, as is often the case, indirectly as those in receipt of their professional outputs, or impacted by their decisions or plans.

In considering the service users pertinent to a particular course, a team might consider:

  • the roles their students will or might take, and those service users for whom they will be making decisions, providing services, or supporting in some way.
  • the wider range of people who might be impacted by the students' activities and decisions - both directly and indirectly.
  • those who might need to access, read, understand and employ information that the students will produce in printed, oral or digital formats.
  • the range of service users who might be impacted or served by students: ages, backgrounds, disabilities, ethnicities, educational and professional achievement.

Skills and attributes

The ability to work with, and communicate with, service users are essential skills within some professions.  Consultation with service users can help ascertain the qualities, attituides and approaches that are effectve for, or form barriers to, effective professional working, and this in turn can both inform and enrich the assocaited elements of course delivery and assessment.

Involving service users in learning

There is an expectation that many health courses integrate service user interaction within learning activities, providing opportunities for students to evaluate how they work with clients and to gain rich understanding of the complex and varied backgrounds, expectations and needs they will encounter in practice.  A similar approach can be pursued in many other courses, enabling students to consider the nature of their potential customers, clients, and colleagues.  This can be particularly powerful as a means of ensuring diversity in society is not just discussed but also encountered, experienced, and understood.

Some examples of how service users can be involved in learning, teaching and assessment include:

  • where students are required to produce artifacts (such as information posters or displays) for particular audiences, involve service users in the evaluation of these (post submission or, perhaps more powerfully, as a formative exercise prior to final submission).  In some cases students could be required or encouraged to co-create artifacts with service users, particularly within educational provision.
  • invite individual or groups of service users to facilitate a in-class discussion on a particular issue or area of practice, or to emphasise service user needs associated with particular groups.
  • develop written, audio or video case studies for students to review or employ in assessment.  These could be anonymised using actors to protect the privacy of the service user where appropriate.
  • encourage students to embark on participtory research activity where service users are integral to the data collection and/or analysis.