Nursing Times Award Winner

Huge thanks to all our Hair and Beauty students

Across the country, through Kissing it Better, beauty therapy students and hairdressing students are delivering thousands of hours of care every year, free of charge, to patients and their relatives, on hospital wards and in outpatient departments. Their visits are part of their course and are planned through us, with meticulous care, to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

These students lift the mood and energy of everyone, everywhere they go. They are making an enormous difference to how people feel about their care. We are so grateful.

In this blog I pay tribute to these fantastic teams and explain why this service it is so important

The difference they make goes way beyond the treatments they offer. They are, quite simply, amazing.

Please read on...

The lady had just arrived in the outpatient area and was clearly irritated. Appointments that morning were running late and the room was full.

She found a seat but she couldn’t relax. People in hospital waiting rooms have many reasons to feel anxious and any delays only add to their tension. I could see her look around for some sort of distraction. Infection control had removed the magazines and the notices on the board were mostly warnings of diseases you might have without realising it. She got out her phone but there was no signal. It wasn’t a good start. Across the corridor I could see the receptionist eyeing her nervously. Booking her in had not been a comfortable experience. Now she looked as if she was about to complain again.

But help was to hand. Moments later I was to be joined by a team of beauty therapy students from the local college. They had come to offer free manicures and hand massages to patients and their relatives to relieve the tension and boredom of waiting to see the doctor. At this hospital, through us, they had been doing it every week for two years.

We always start the same way: I announce why we're there. We then wait for a response. Some people volunteer for a treatment immediately. Some want a few more details. Some hold back until they have seen someone else have a treatment. Some just like to watch it all happen. No one has ever complained.

That morning our team included Lucy. Like all the students, her treatments were overseen by a tutor and by us. In Lucy’s case, the tutor was also an interpreter as Lucy was profoundly deaf. As I matched the students up with the patients, I made sure that those who were there for the first time were happy (some lack confidence when they first start, and prefer to work in pairs initially). But Lucy didn’t seem to demonstrate any of those concerns so I offered her services to the lady who looked so anxious. She smiled and Lucy settled to her task. Supported by her interpreter, they were soon chatting easily together. It was my guess that the lady was no longer planning to hassle the receptionists or register a complaint. Lucy, through her confidence, competence and care, had offered far more than a manicure. She had gained the lady's respect, she had made her smile and she had calmed her down.

All the students conduct themselves with charm, grace and dignity. Patients respond and, time and again we see patients that had looked so withdrawn, open up in their company. The students not only provide a treatment but also a welcome distraction from other worries. Within minutes of their arrival the mood of the waiting room lifts. Even those who don’t want a treatment enjoy the event simply by watching it all happen. Staff are energised by the relaxed atmosphere and care improves. It’s a win-win.

And it’s a great confidence booster for the students. Many start out feeling very nervous. They didn’t plan to work in hospitals, to treat people with a huge variety of conditions. But, treated sensitively, very soon they are ready to work with patients of all ages and with a variety of health issues. For treatments don’t just happen in outpatients. Far more happen on the wards, by the bedside. Guided by hospital staff, older patients, many with varying degrees of dementia, love to have the time and attention of a young person and enjoy a treatment many have never experienced before. It calms them down too. Many patients who might otherwise wander aimlessly round the ward, sit very still when they are getting a student beautician’s undivided attention.

There are so many moving stories to relate including the gentleman who cried when his wife, who had suffered a devastating stroke, spoke for the first time as a student manicured her nails. My theory is that many people in her situation are so devastated by the life-changing experience they have suffered that they shut down, like a tree in Autumn, until something happens that makes them feel life might still have some meaning. In the case of this lady, I believe that having her nails done by a smiling student, helped to make her feel a woman again.

Then there was the lady who told us that, three days earlier, she had had an operation and ended up losing an eye. I could see the students were shocked by this news. But with her head swathed in bandages, the patient couldn’t see their reaction. She asked for her hands to be manicured even though her remaining eye was so weak she couldn’t see them. She wanted it done so that her husband could know she had beautiful hands. Two girls treated her together in the semi-light so as not to hurt her remaining eye. They were hugely affected by the experience and delighted that by the end of the session they had made her laugh.

Then there was the man who had been too nervous to move his stiff hands until after the student had gently massaged them.

It great for pressure area care too. Patients have to sit up and stretch their hands out on a table to have a manicure. Once the nail polish is on, they shake their hands to dry it. Then others want to see their lovely nails so they stretch their hands to show them and then turn their wrist to see their nails from a different angle. It’s all great exercise and it also give those patients, especially those who are depressed, a greater sense of worth. They take a real pride in themselves. This is a great morale booster for them and great exercise for muscles and bones that may have been damaged by various medical conditions.

For many people who have had a stroke, or other related conditions, the future seems very bleak. Lying in a bed or sitting in a chair, many feel their future is hopeless. They withdraw and it hard to pull them back. Yet, a time spent with a student can make so much difference. We see, time and again, patients who rarely speak, chatting easily to a young person as they recall memories of when they were young.

Inspired by the success of the beauty therapy student visits, we now invite students from a variety of other courses to offer their time and specific talents too. So, music students come and sing or play popular songs, English students read familiar verse and poetry ( Winnie the Pooh to Shakespeare), I.T. students create reminiscence magazines , horticulture students restore hospital gardens. The list is endless. The students gain vital work experience in a challenging setting and the patients gain from their lively presence.

As the NHS moves forward, the future of so many patients will be so much brighter if colleges continue to offer the specialised skills of their students in a way that can do so much to improve the lives of their patients.

And bringing the community into hospital settings, under our careful supervision, is so important, especially for older people with memory issues. They might be in the middle of their own city but unless they get the chance to talk to people who have some real link with the outside world, they soon feel completely disconnected and this can have a huge impact on their recovery.

Students with their wonderful conversations, help to keep those people connected and this, in turn, helps them to believe that they still have great value and therefore a reason to get better.

So huge thanks must go to all the students and their tutors at the following colleges: Walsall; Warwickshire; East and North Herts; Manchester; Trafford; Stanmore; Kingston; Harrow; Leeds City College; Askham Bryan; West Herts; Waltham Forest; City and Islington; South Devon; and Exeter Colleges who have done so much to much to lift the spirits of patients, relatives and staff.

We are all so grateful.


Jill Fraser

Jill Fraser

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