Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Case Studies
  3. Public sector
  4. How advanced clinical practice skills development is boosting patient care in Southampton

How advanced clinical practice skills development is boosting patient care in Southampton

The Open University (OU) offers several qualifications in advanced clinical practice, including an MSc (Master of Science). It more recently added an Advanced Clinical Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship to its portfolio. This Level 7 apprenticeship, available only in England currently, helps experienced registered healthcare professionals, such as nurses, pharmacists, paramedics and occupational therapists, to develop their careers as advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs).

In 2021, the OU formed a partnership with University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust to deliver ACP apprenticeship training. The partnership is going very well, with over 20 healthcare professionals enrolled on the programme.

Rosemary Chable, Head of Nursing for Education, Practice and Staffing at the Trust, says it’s important that the Trust builds an internal pipeline of skilled practitioners. There’s an acute shortage of qualified healthcare professionals nationally and internationally, so developing employees through apprenticeships is a great way to meet the Trust’s skills needs, while at the same time providing career development opportunities for employees. It’s also an important retention tool in a very competitive field.

The importance of flexibility

“We’ve got a culture of learning and development that runs through our foundations and that’s part of being a teaching Trust,” she says.

The OU offers us diversity of programmes and flexibility of delivery. Flexibility is so important for staff working in health care services.” The flexible nature of OU delivery and the emphasis on remote learning enables medical practitioners and their employers to balance studying with the demands of work and complex shift patterns.

Rosemary Chable
Head of Nursing for Education, Practice and Staffing, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Emma Tabenor, Lead Nurse for major trauma at the Trust, says ACPs are vital for patient care, so the hospital has to ensure it has the skills it needs. This means continually investing in the development and careers of the workforce. “The key principle of the major trauma network is to have the right staff for the right skills in the right place at the right time to deliver the best care for our patients,” she says.

Developing the skills to succeed

On the programme, all the apprentices are building knowledge, skills and behaviours that will enable them to act with a high level of autonomy. There are four pillars underpinning advanced clinical practice – clinical practice, leadership and management, research and education.

Rusty Pitt is one of the apprentices on the OU programme. With a background in nursing and trauma, he was keen to develop his skills further. Online learning appealed to him as it fits with his learning needs, enabling him to learn at his own pace and to apply and embed his learning in the workplace. “It’s a fantastic pathway,” he says.

The apprenticeship suits me and the OU pathway suits me. I learn better on an individual basis, rather than in a group or a classroom setting so being on the apprenticeship pathway allows me to do it in an environment that I find easier to work in.

Rusty Pitt
Advanced Clinical Practitioner Degree Apprentice

Lauren Deanus is a trainee advanced clinical practitioner at the Trust. She works within adult oncology and has wanted to become an ACP for a long time, but knew it meant acquiring a lot of new skills that she didn’t have as a staff nurse. Lauren is really enjoying the learning and says the level of support given by the OU is really helpful. “I’m doing my prescribing module at the moment and the prescribing at the OU is particularly good. It’s very detailed and very applicable to practice. By the time I finish this module I will be able to prescribe, which will make a massive difference to patients as well as my colleagues.

Working in partnership

Helen Heenan is a Practice Tutor at the OU. Coming from an advanced clinical background herself, she supports ACPs - those on the apprenticeship programme, those who are going down the Masters route and practitioners who are also studying standalone modules, such as non-medical prescribing. Because of the nature of the studying, the provision is a mix of face-to-face teaching as well as self-directed learning. Helen says the partnership is proving to be very successful.

I think the partnership has developed in a really positive way. It’s been based around open communication and we’ve developed a really honest working relationship with each other at a strategic level, as well as at a ward and department level. I love hearing the feedback from students, their assessors and supervisors about how they’re developing.

Helen Heenan
Advanced Clinical Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship Tutor, The Open University

Find out more about the Advanced Clinical Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship

You might also like...

Find out how we can help your organisation

Please contact us to speak to one of our business team advisors.

Contact us

Not on our mailing list?

Sign up to receive regular emails that are full of advice and resources to support staff development in your organisation.

Sign up to our emails