The Open University plans to offer the pre-registration learning disabilities nursing programme

At the Open University, we are delighted to announce that, subject to NMC approval, our new pre-registration nursing programme, based on the NMC’s 2018 Future Nurse Standards, will include the learning disabilities field of practice. We have offered adult nursing and mental health nursing since 2002 and have students studying in all four nations of the UK. Our students are healthcare support workers who are supported by their employers and the student retention rate on our programme is consistently over 93%. 

During preparation of our new programme we are working collaboratively with service users, families, practitioners and students/alumni.  We are really pleased to be working with and for people who have learning disabilities, their families and many of the health and social care professionals who work to support them.  We look forward to developing and delivering an innovative distance education pre-registration learning disabilities nursing programme that we hope will go some way to address the current crisis in learning disability nurse training and education.

Please share this information widely. For further information, feel free to email Sheila Counihan,, who is leading on the development of the programme. 

Social Workers & Social Media: a webinar debating the issues for Social Work students

An inter professional discussion

Academics with Open University and Salford University debate the issues of professionalism and social media for social workers and students in practice placements.


Access to the Internet and social media through a range of mobile communication devices has fundamentally changed the way in which all of us communicate and behave. The profession of Social Work has also been affected by this change in a range of areas that include serious case reviews; court judgements and professionalism.

This webinar will allow students to consider how the profession of Social Work is responding to challenges and opportunities that have arisen due to social media.  Specifically, the webinar will begin by focusing on important questions that social work students need to reflect on about their own use of social media, as well as how social media impacts upon professionalism.  Students will also hear the latest research in relation to how Social Workers practitioners are using social media in their practice.

Those contributing to the webinar include:

Dr Gemma Sinead Ryan, The Open University

Gemma has a diverse background as a qualified teacher with QTLS/QTS, and is also a registered adult nurse and nurse teacher.  Her experience includes secondary, further and higher education (maths, biology, health & social care, research and evidence-based practice), research management, private and NHS healthcare (community and acute setting).  She retains a clinical nursing role as a bank nurse for BUPA care.

Research interests

Gemma currently works on a range of research projects with a particular interest in professionalism, accountability (including the legal aspects of this), online social networks and social media in healthcare and healthcare education. Gemma’s ongoing research involves raising awareness of, assessment and decision making for [un]professional behaviours of professionals on social media, ‘e-professionalism’ policy, guidance and interventions, realist review into OSN and SM interventions for reducing obesity.  Other interests include realist ethnography and realist methodologies.

View a summary of her recent research here.

Dr Joanne Westwood, University of Salford

Dr Joanne Westwood is currently Assistant Director and (interim) Head of Social Work in the School of Health and Society at the University of Salford.  Working in collaboration with several academics from across the UK Joanne has led research and evaluation projects which promote and apply technological developments for teaching/learning and for professional social work practice. In 2014 Joanne edited a collection of work entitled Social Media in Social Work Education, and has written several book chapters, and delivered guest lectures on this topic.

Research Interests

Joanne is particularly interested in how students and practitioners use social media, how they manage the tensions between the personal and the professional and how organisations develop social media policies.

Jenny Simpson, Head of Social Work (England), The Open University

Jenny Simpson took up post as Head of Social Work (England) in September 2017.  Previously she worked as a regional academic manager working for The Open University, on its undergraduate social work programme in the south of England. As a social work practitioner, she specialised in children and family social work, in particular foster care. She has also worked extensively with educational establishments in the area of child protection and building resilience in Looked After Children.

Research interests

Jenny is currently undertaking a PhD with Edinburgh University where the focus of her research is Looked After Children and issues related to contact.   Her study of this area provides an opportunity, unlike existing research, to capture how  contact between LAC and their birth families has changed as a result of 3G telecommunications and social media, and whether or not there is a tangible impact in terms of key areas of local authority care e.g. placement stability; reunification and safeguarding.

Paul O Onyango, University of Bedfordshire, PhD student

Paul is currently undertaking his PhD at the University of Bedfordshire.  Before embarking in his PhD Paul  spent a period of 18 years in practice UK and international social work practice where the emphasis was targeted at bringing a sense of understanding and devising a person-centred way of working with children, young people and their families who have been through various family related traumatic/stressful experience.

Research Interests

Paul’s research interest touches on social work, technology and human services, social services provision to victims of domestic violence, social services role in supporting UASC in England, social work response to cases of Child Sexual Exploitation in England and social services support of young Black male in the Criminal Justice system in England.


Research Study is recruiting registered nurses and HCPs – PRISM: Professional Regulation In Social Media

Our OU HWSC academics Dr Gemma Ryan & Dr Marc Cornock and Vicky Cockerill at the University of Derby are conducting a research study into Professional Regulation In Social Media (PRISM).

Find out why to participate in the PRISM project and follow the survey link to participate

Are you a registered nurse or healthcare professional in the UK?

There are £10 Amazon e-vouchers available for participants who complete the first (15-20 minute) and second (shorter) survey.  

Continue reading “Research Study is recruiting registered nurses and HCPs – PRISM: Professional Regulation In Social Media”

Open University Nursing Curriculum Partnership Events

Our current nursing degrees meet the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) 2010 Standards for Pre-registration Nursing Education. In 2016 the NMC started the process of developing new standards, which will be published in April/May 2018. We will deliver new degrees based on these standards from September 2019. For the first time we will offer learning disability nursing, as well as adult nursing and mental health.

From September 2017-January 2018, we ran seven curriculum partnership events and we were delighted that 195 people took part.  We held these events in Nottingham, Belfast, Leeds, Newcastle, Exeter, Tunbridge Wells and Winchester. We also held an afternoon session at the Annual Nursing Partnership Meeting in Scotland, conducted skype meetings with practice tutors and module tutors from across the UK, and held individual phone calls with service users/carers and alumni in Scotland.  A good mix of stakeholders attended our events, including employer representatives, mentors, OU practice tutors and module tutors, service users/carers, students and alumni.  Nation/locality and central academics attended each event.

Altogether, we have captured rich information that we are now using as we start planning the new programme. This report Stakeholder consultation report_final March 2018 provides a summary of all the discussions at our events, combined with information from the additional consultation activities.

Don’t forget it is National Apprenticeships week.  If you would like any further details regarding what apprenticeships we offer please go to the following links:

We also offer the Higher Apprentice Nursing Associate.

Thank you for your continued support Dr Lesley Baillie.  Senior Lecturer and Qualifications lead, Nursing

Follow us on twitter @ou_hwsc, @lesleyJBaillie.  Use the hashtag #OpenUniNursing

If you would like to contact us then please use


Meet Jo Stevens, Stage 2 Student Nurse, Adult Nursing


Jo Stevens, currently at Stage 2 of the Pre-Registration Nursing programme within The Open University.

Employed in primary care within a GP surgery as a Health Care Assistant for the past 16 years.

Goal to work as a Practice Nurse when graduate in 2020

High point passing year 1 with a distinction

Low point scared about upcoming exam!!!

Hi, my name is Jo, currently established in year 2 of the Pre-Registration Nursing programme. I am currently in placement within an excellent District Nursing team. What an eye opener so different to my core base within general practice. The daily challenges of travelling, lone working, lack of equipment dressings etc (I am used to walking into a stocked cupboard), time constraints and never quite knowing what you are going to walk into is both thrilling and petrifying. One minute along with my mentor I have nursed dementia patients with complex wounds, shared a quiet moment with a dying patient, observed a blocked catheter then dealt with the referrals to GPs, safe guarding issues and protocols all in 1 day! I am loving the challenge and feel this is the benefit of the programme. Having the varied placements mixed within my core base give me the opportunities to broaden my knowledge and practical skills along with my studies.

Two years ago as a mature student I never believed I would be able to produce academic work and achieve along with the universities support good grades. Having the benefit of studying independently is perfect for my family life and my children have no excuse to not do their homework as I have to do mine!!!. Currently I am studying a Human Biology module which is fascinating, I am apprehensive about the upcoming exam but know with the excellent support the tutors provide with some hard work I should be able to achieve a good result.

2018 has lots of exciting challenges ahead, in June I have another placement within a local main hospital and further essays and projects to study and complete. In addition to the wealth of experience the tutors within the Open University bring to my studies I have the benefit of support from my employers who are all backing me in my progression to become a registered nurse.


Professional accountability in social media

The concept of e-professionalism or e-accountability can be defined as, ‘the attitudes and behaviours reflecting traditional professional paradigms that are manifested through digital media’ (Cain & Romanelli, 2009:1). Despite professional guidance and organisational policy being in place for several years, literature outlines issues associated with e-professionalism. For the public, this sends an inconsistent message and can lead to loss of confidence in nurses/the profession. For nursing students, evidence suggests the need for further guidance and input from educators, though the nursing profession has not reached explicit consensus about what ‘unprofessional’ behaviour is (e.g. why are pictures of drinking alcohol deemed as unprofessional when it is legal and acceptable to be doing this in the physical world?) While one nurse will assess a particular behaviour to be unprofessional, another will see it as simply unacceptable; hence, the outcome and consequences of reported and observed ‘incidents’ on social media vary significantly.

The A2A (Awareness to Action) decision making tool has been developed as part of a 42-month ethnographic study that conducted semi-structured interviews, focus groups [with nurses and nursing students] and online observations of publicly accessible professional groups. The study found that:

  1. There is an awareness of e-professionalism and accountability on social media but social, political and personal events impact on the perception and subsequent actions of nurses. For example, swearing and bullying is deemed as unprofessional, but when responding to posts about NHS reforms this was ‘accepted’ by the wider nursing community.
  2. Nurse perceptions and understanding of behaviours that require ‘action’ to be taken is inconsistent (e.g. what one nurse would discipline, another might just view as unacceptable, not unprofessional and thus, take no action).
  3. Nurses perceived self-efficacy (awareness) is inconsistent with ‘actual’ observed behaviours (i.e. what individuals think they do and share is not what they actually do).
  4. The above findings result in confusion, inconsistency and reluctance to report incidents:

– that are actually unprofessional and require further investigation

– professional penalties against acceptable or unacceptable [rather than unprofessional] behaviours (e.g. photos of drinking alcohol being shared with friends)

– the removal of online posts, investigations and/or disciplinary action for behaviours that are actually professional; serving a genuine purpose within the parameters of the NMC code (2015; 2016).

When discussing what actions would be challenged in physical practice, and why such actions would not be challenged in Facebook there were three main reasons identified: a lack of clarity, context and confirmability.


School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care

For over 30 years, we have been delivering supported and open distance learning in the field of health and social care, and developing highly-respected materials for multi-disciplinary and multi-professional use. Today, we are one of the largest and most innovative providers of educational opportunities and learning solutions in this sector.

We offer a wide range of practice-related courses and awards, from single modules for professional development to qualifying and post-qualifying routes, and from vocational training to undergraduate and research degrees.

The School is characterised by a vigorous intellectual life fostered through shared research interests, collaborative teaching, flexible study arrangements and a strong external focus. We currently have 100 members of academic staff, 28 academic related staff and 14 postgraduate students. Our work is organised into three areas – Health and social careSocial Work, and Nursing:

  • We work in partnership with employers to provide learning programmes that meet their changing needs. Over 50% of our students are sponsored by employers – mainly in the NHS, Social Services and the voluntary sector.
  • As the UK’s largest provider of part-time social work training, we support a large student population of about 12,000 who study a diverse range of open modules and awards in the field of wellbeing, health and social care that are relevant to practice and work.
  • We also offer a unique work-based pre-registration nursing programme which delivers a flexible qualifying route for staff working in healthcare practice in a caring role across the UK, together with a range of modules and awards for professional development.

Our teaching materials are underpinned by the excellence of our research as well as by high quality scholarship in the area of teaching and learning – focusing on the delivery of an excellent student experience. We are deeply committed to the principles and practice of equality and diversity and to the pursuit of social justice.

We have a strong track record in applied health and social care research. We are in receipt of funding from Research Councils (ESRC and AHRC), the National Institute for Health Research, and a wide range of trusts, charities and commercial organisations.

ADHD & YOU: an educational website for those with and in contact with those with ADHD

A summary of a project from one of our own HWSC academics, Gemma Ryan

ADHD & You project summary

An evaluation of an educational website on ADHD for parents, carers and education staff.  (2012-2014)

This website was improved by its owners Shire, and is now available at


What was the purpose of this study?

‘ADHD & You’ is a website developed by Shire AG Ltd. and is aimed at providing information and advice to parents, carers, teachers of children and young people with ADHD, people with a diagnosis of ADHD and healthcare professionals.

We evaluated this website to see if it was useful to parents, carers and education staff who have care of, or who come into contact with a child or young person with a diagnosis of [or suspected] ADHD.


What did we want to know?

We wanted to know whether the website was informative and how usable it was.  We also wanted to know if it helped to improve knowledge of ADHD.


What did we do?

We recruited participants through community paediatric outpatient clinics and other services.

They were asked to:

  • Read a participant information sheet
  • Ask any questions about the study
  • Sign an informed consent form
  • Give us some information about themselves e.g. ethnicity, age, age of child/young person, diagnostic status of child/young person
  • Complete a true-false quiz/questionnaire
  • Access the website freely for one month as they wished
  • Complete the same true-false quiz/questionnaire after one month
  • Provided feedback on the frequency of use (if used) and opinions of the website e.g. what was good/needed improvement


What did we find?

Who participated?

172 participants were involved in the parents/carers part of the project.

We could not contact 14 people for the follow up quiz.

91 of the 172 participants accessed the website and provided feedback.

Most people accessed the website once or twice (33%) and those who did not access the website stated that they ‘lacked the time’ to do so.


The average age of participants was 41 years.  These people were parents or carers of children whose average age was 10 years.


76% of our participants were mothers of children with ADHD, 15% were fathers and the rest were ‘other’ e.g. grandparent, sister, aunt.


94% of our participants declared themselves as White-British.


Of the 172 participants, 40 (24%) had suspected ADHD, 21 (13%) were diagnosed less than 6 months ago and 107 (64%) had been diagnosed for 6 months or more.


How did people use the website?

41% of participants did not access the website at all.  59% accessed the website at least once.


Those people whose child had a confirmed diagnosis of ADHD were more likely to have accessed the website, as were parents of younger children.


Who used the website?

Most people (74%) used the website to browse for information.


How useful was the website?

86% of people found the website relevant and 91% said that they would use the website again.


When we tested participants knowledge of ADHD with the true-false quiz this showed that the website did help to increase knowledge of ADHD.


Most people were positive about the website and liked the downloadable files e.g. reward charts and also the real life story video.


Advised improvements included:

  • Age specific resources and information
  • Addition of a discussion forum or group
  • More detail of the science behind ADHD
  • Search function to search for specific themes or questions


Participants felt that they were happy to be directed to reliable educational websites by their healthcare professional.


How have we shared these findings?

  • Through a report to our funders and organisations involved in the project
  • Through an article in a journal (in process)
  • Through this summary


If you want to know more:

Contact the co-investigator Gemma Ryan on



We would like to thank all of our participants.

Thank you for Shire AG International for providing the grant funding for this project.   Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust acted as sponsor for this study and provided NHS approvals and research governance processes.

The Families, Young People and Children’s Services Research Team were essential to the success of this project; Gail Melvin, Lynne Hartwell, Tom Pringle, Ruth Beardsley, Julie Rybicki. The Principal Investigators acknowledge the support of the National Institute of Health Research Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN).

Thank you to Sussex Community NHS Trust and Coventry & Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust for their contribution and recruitment to this project.


Trial registration

Registered on National Institute for Health Research portfolio, United Kingdom Clinical Research Network ID 13980


This project was completed in partnership with Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (sponsor & lead site) & University of Derby (Gemma Ryan)

“To inspire and ennoble” A HWSC student success story to prove you should not be afraid to pursue your passion


Award winning Gina Awad, loving mother, daughter & sister, OU graduate and Community Champion for Exeter Dementia Action Alliance

Gina hosts her own radio Exeter show on Phonic FM ‘Living better with Dementia’

Nominated for Inspirational Woman of the year in the Devon & Cornwall Venus Women Awards 2018. 

Inspired by her OU study, she now inspires others.

We asked Gina to share her journey with the OU.

What were your motivations for using the OU?

Two friends of mine did a couple of modules with the Open University and I felt inspired; hearing how they could adapt it around their working and family life. One of my friends sat down with me and took me through the student pages so I could obtain an overview of the process. This inspired me even more.

In addition, I had an embedded feeling of inadequacy from my school days and a significant teacher of mine who did not believe in me when I asked to take the RSA II typing exam; she only submitted people who she thought would pass. I was not one of those students. Feeling disheartened but determined to have a go, I could opt to take the typing exam only if my parents paid the fee. They did and, I passed with distinction.

Throughout my life and my work in the community I have come to believe in lifelong learning.  My OU study has allowed me to apply new knowledge, make sense of theory and really make a difference in the world.  Reflecting back, 6 years ago I would never have believed I would achieve a degree in my 40s; this will be a large part of my legacy.  I have challenged myself, both personally and professionally; including those embedded thoughts of inadequacy which began all those years ago.

What impact have you had as a result of your learning?

I have travelled down a road I never ever anticipated and in studying my dementia care module (K235) with the OU it ignited childhood memories of my experiences witnessing people living with dementia.

This learning caused me to do further research and train as a Dementia Friends Champion which, has resulted in me delivering 100 voluntary Dementia Friends sessions across the city of Exeter.

Having been told it would be insurmountable, I have now created a credible organisation working towards charitable status; Exeter Dementia Action Alliance.

Making a difference for people affected by dementia

The Exeter Dementia Action Alliance is currently working towards charitable status and is already viewed as a sought-after community organisation to be involved with.

We are a trail blazing social action movement, with clear objectives: raising awareness of dementia in the community, inspiring local businesses to take action as well as empowering people with dementia and their care partners.

I am beginning to conquer my morbid fear of public speaking through my growing confidence as a person which I believe is a result of reflection throughout my various module choices.

When I discovered the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends initiative I decided to train as a Volunteer Dementia Champion. My work with dementia has forced me out of my comfort zone. Susan Jeffers’ motto always sits at the back of my mind which says ‘Feel the Fear and Do it anyway’. As a person I live by that motto.

What would be your advice for others who want to make a difference with OU study?

  • Anyone can obtain a degree, the support from the Open University and your peers will be second to none.
  • Be honest with yourself and your struggles as it is not plain sailing.
  • Use the Tutor Group Forums, tutors and OU support they are there to help and they will, with an unwavering response.

Share your journey with family, friends and other students

Communicate with your circle of support; family and friends on the journey as it is hard for them too. Mine have been there for me but there were many times when I was extremely difficult to live with as a single mum with my teenage son Alex, he deserves a medal.

Find a study buddy – I did and it proved invaluable for each of my exam based modules. For me, face to face meet ups would always be my first choice but my Dementia Care module K235 did not comprise of any local students and I was unable to attend the face to face tutorial.

Be proactive

I put a call out on our Tutor Group Forum asking if anyone lived within an hour radius of Exeter with a view to meeting half way would consider studying with me. When studying my Dementia Care module I had response from a super lady called Helen from Ireland saying she’d love to study with me and bounce ideas around in the run up to the exam. We decided to skype each other once a week for 6 weeks leading up to the exam and it was brilliant. We both shared different perspectives and together learnt so much from each other. Helen did just the one off module with the OU. It was 3 years ago we studied together and she always said to share my graduation picture with her when it happened, so yesterday I did just that. A big thank you to my other study buddies too…Lauren, Christine, Elaine and Ann, all lovely ladies that inspired my journey along the way.  I also commend the support provided by my tutors; Tony Weatherby & Keith Edwards are worthy of particular mention.


You do not have to be ‘good’ all of the time: quality is better than quantity

Determination and discipline is key but also allow yourself off the hook if you feel like you’re staring at your PC with nothing to contribute or writers block. I stopped, did something else or gave myself a treat and came back to it.


“If I can do it anyone can do it, and I say that from the bottom of my heart because it really is true.”

“The sense of personal achievement is fantastic and I am a late bloomer, graduating with a BSc with Honours with a 2:1 in Health & Social care at 47.”


Truly inspirational.


  • Host of her own show on Phonic FM ‘Living better with Dementia’

View one of Gina’s radio show interviews here

  • National Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly awards 2016 – Winner – Dementia Friends Champion of the Year 2016
  • Lords Mayors Commendation for services to Dementia in the city – 2016
  • Pride of Exeter 2015 – Winner – City Ambassador
  • Pride of Devon 2015 – Winner – Volunteer of the Year
  • National Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly awards 2015 – Finalist – Outstanding Contribution
  • National Dementia Friendly awards in 2016. Read about her experience here


Dementia Friendly Awards 2017: Last year’s winner, one year on

  • Gina discusses her community dementia work with Hiblio TV, a Health & Social Care channel.