Public Engagement in Nursing (PEN) at the University of Birmingham

The PEN group’s role is to contribute to the University of Birmingham’s continual quality improvement of its undergraduate and postgraduate nursing programmes. It is also to reflect the social, cultural, and health needs of the West Midlands.

We are committed to creating a diverse group of service users and carers. It is important to acknowledge that people and carers with a wide range of nursing needs will come from different groups, and will have different experiences and expectations of their local health services and nursing.

PEN group objectives

The PEN group has seven key objectives:

  1. To ensure our nursing students 'see the whole person' and respect people as individuals
  2. To enable our nursing students to bring together theory and real life.
  3. To empower nursing students to learn directly from people who have been patients or used health services, in addition to other modes of learning.
  4. To communicate business by Chair or nominated deputy of the PEN meetings to current nursing students and the nursing departments academic members (e.g. via Service User Lead, attendance at Curriculum Development Committee (CDC) meetings, programme review days, PEN website, etc.).
  5. Student nurses currently spend 50% of their nursing programme in real work settings (various clinical placements), where they spend time with service users, patients, families and carers this is really important, but it's also important to learn from service users and carers who are not 'their' patients and who have had a chance to think about their experiences.
  6. Enable nursing students to get used to working with patients, service users and carers on an equal basis and get used to members of the public being involved in their own healthcare.
  7. To contribute to our students becoming excellent nurses, and to make health services better for all of us.

Who can be involved?

The group welcomes involvement from anyone who will have ideas and views on the nursing programme, at the University of Birmingham.

The PEN group is made up of:

  • people with various illnesses
  • people who have been newly diagnosed to those living with long term conditions
  • people with other health needs or disabilities (e.g. mental health issues, visual or physical impairments etc.)
  • carers (informal / unpaid)
  • parents of under-18s using paediatric services
  • student nurse members
  • a balance of genders
  • a balance of age groups (over 18) people from ethnic communities
  • people living across the West Midlands

What does membership entail?

PEN membership will give you the opportunity to participate in research, and learning and teaching activities within the School of Nursing and Midwifery. This might include:

  • Participating in a classroom session, or with small groups of students to discuss your own experience of a medical condition
  • Advising on, or participating in, role-play scenarios giving students practice at various situations, such as end of life care and lived experience of long term conditions
  • Reviewing and commenting on documentation for current courses
  • Reviewing plans and contributing towards new course proposals
  • Involvement in nursing research, for example reviewing research protocols
  • Other opportunities within the School of Nursing and Midwifery as they arise

There are two levels of PEN membership, and the level you choose will decide the amount of time and input you have.

Tier 1 Membership

Tier 1 PEN members have a direct role in setting the aims and direction of the PEN group, primarily by attending quarterly meetings (where possible). They act as a reference group for the nursing programmes, bringing expert challenge and support for the development of the programmes.

Tier 1 members also have the opportunity to get involved in the research, and learning and teaching activities within the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

If you have a bit more time to spare, and would like to be directly involved in the development and running of the nursing programmes you should consider tier 1 membership.

Tier 2 (non-voting) Membership

Tier 2 PEN members do not attend quarterly meetings, but still have the opportunity to get involved in the research, and learning and teaching activities within the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

If you have a bit less time, but would like to get involved in supporting teaching or research in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, then you should consider tier 2 membership.


For roles that require you to travel to the University, we will pay your reasonable travel expenses on production of receipts, and where appropriate, either provide meals or reimburse you appropriately.

For specific roles, we will pay you a fee that takes into account your time involved (e.g. to attend a meeting or to undertake work remotely, such as reading and commenting on documentation).

The University defines this work as casual work and pay will be in adherence to the defined rates of pay for casual workers.

You will be informed of the total rate of pay before you agree to accept the work assignment.

We aim to comply with guidelines issued by INVOLVE, the organisation that supports public involvement in NHS, public health & social care research.

Get involved

Hearing patients’ and carers’ ideas, views and experiences of nursing is essential to nursing care, education and research. Members of the public have a powerful influence on the success of our nursing programme, and on our nursing students’ values, behaviours and attitudes towards caring.

To find out more, please contact

If you would like to join us, please complete the registration form and we will be in touch.

Please note: if want to comment on the care or service you received and you would like to feed this back to the service providers you should contact the relevant organisation, for example the hospital or NHS Trust or PALS, the Patient Advice and Liaison Service


For all enquiries, please email: