Background: Age-appropriate communication and interaction are essential when meeting young carers, requiring in-depth knowledge and experience. Volunteer programmes may enhance undergraduate students' competencies in this regard. This pilot study evaluated undergraduate students' perceptions of volunteering on the Buddies for Children and Youngsters (BCY) programme by assessing the extent to which students experienced an improvement in their relational and communication competencies and/or felt better equipped for their future work.
Methods: The researchers conducted a mixed methods study with a parallel design, focussing on undergraduate students from the University College of Northern Denmark within the field of nursing, teaching, pedagogy, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy. The students participated in the programme for at least 4 months.
Results: Forty-two students responded to a questionnaire, and 17 students were selected to participate in four focus groups. The results showed that participation in the programme improved the students' communication and relational competencies to some degree. The programme provided the students with experience of age-related communication on both informal and difficult topics, and of building relationships and solving relational challenges. Also, the programme generally equipped students for future work with young carers and children.
Conclusion: In conclusion, the BCY programme is a relevant supplement to regular educational activities. Decision makers within politics of health, health planning and management, should therefore consider implementation of such programmes in relevant educational areas.
Keywords: children; professional competence; respite programme; undergraduate students; volunteering; young carers.
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