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Healthcare theory for practice

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As a compulsory part of the Foundation Degree in Nursing Associate practice (X20), this theory module allows nursing associates to meet the specific proficiencies required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). You'll explore topics including long term conditions, end of life care, oncology, life transitions, minor injuries, rare disorders, maternity, children and adolescents, learning disabilities, service improvement, legal and ethical issues. The module is based on six people from a family and uses real-life characters who share their experiences in the healthcare sector.

What you will study

You will study a range of healthcare topics based around six blocks of study. Each block focuses on a member of a fictional family. Throughout the module, you will meet real-life individuals who have had similar experiences to the members of the family. Each block also helps you to develop study skills such as literature searching, writing for different audiences, and drug calculations.

Block 1: Olive’s experiences of long-term conditions
This block of study introduces ‘Olive’, a 72-year-old White female with a long-term diagnosis of insulin-dependent diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and BMI of 32 (obese). Olive lives alone after the recent death of her husband, Frank (Block 2) and the passing of her son, Vivian, 18 months prior to this. Olive is struggling with depression and adjustment to life without her son and husband. She is under the care of her GP, who she has known for over 40 years.

Shopping is a challenge as her husband was the only person in the household who could drive. She has obtained a mobility scooter but is reluctant to use it through reduced confidence and self-esteem. Recently, Olive accidentally gave herself an additional dose of insulin as she forgot that she had already done this before going to bed. She had to call the 111 service for advice.

Block 2: Frank’s last days: end of life care
This block of study introduces Frank, the husband of Olive. He is male and 74 years old. He has been diagnosed with primary lung cancer after visiting his GP with fatigue and breathlessness. On further investigation in secondary care, he is diagnosed with brain metastases for which he has begun a course of radiotherapy. Frank is eventually admitted to hospital via A&E, he is non-responsive and does not regain consciousness. He passes away three days later in a general medical ward.

Block 3: Life transitions: Josephine
Josephine is the daughter of Olive and Frank. She is a white female aged 50 who has been recently diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She has been a smoker for 25 years and has been advised to stop by her GP and practice nurse. She has also recently experienced menopause and, combined with her diagnosis and symptoms of COPD has mild depression which is impacting her work as a healthcare assistant on a general respiratory ward in the local hospital.

Block 4: Oncology: Myles’ story
This is the partner of Josephine; they have been a couple for 6 years. He is 50 years old. This block will follow the journey of a case study of a man who is diagnosed with bowel cancer and liver metastases being treated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Block 5: Complaints and clinical negligence: Daniel’s story
This block introduces Daniel and explores multiple problems. Daniel is generally fit and well, a production manager of a mechanical engineering company, and enjoys competing in triathlons. Daniel is the grandson of Olive and Frank and is 30 years of age. Daniel discusses how he has a suspected broken collarbone and broken foot while under the influence of alcohol his journey through urgent care, A&E. It then explores his more negative experiences and impact of a rare condition that led to the loss of function in his right arm for 9 months (Parsonage Turner Syndrome), his journey through the primary, acute and secondary care system in order to diagnose this. He is also admitted to hospital for abdominal spasms and explains the impact of poor pain management on his experience, leading to self-discharge. This block explores some legal issues in healthcare.

Block 6: Conception, birth and maternity care: Sarah & Liam
Sarah is 27 years old and the wife of Daniel. Sarah grew up in Southern Ireland, she was placed into care at 14 years old and moved to England at 18 years old. Her family were from the traveller community.  This block explores Sarah and Daniel’s experiences of attempting to have children from conception through to birth, neonatal and community care. She was diagnosed with endometriosis in her 20s and suffered painful and excessive periods through her teens and was not diagnosed until her early 20s. She has an unplanned ectopic pregnancy and then a further unplanned (successful) pregnancy but a very difficult birth.  Liam is eventually born and the later part of the block explores normal and not normal childhood development.

Entry requirements

You can only study this module as part of the Foundation Degree in Nursing Associate Practice (X20).

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

This module is presented fully online. You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video recordings
  • interactive content
  • an assessment guide
  • access to online tutorials and forums.

You'll also have access to the OU library and study skills resources, and support is available from the Student Support Team.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (10.15 or higher).

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll be allocated a tutor who will support you through your studies. You will receive online tutorials from your own tutor and from groups of 2-3 tutors.

Your tutor will provide you with feedback on your assessments to help you develop as the module progresses. You will also have access to discussion forums.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K234 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Healthcare theory for practice starts twice a year – in October and February.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2022 and February 2023. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2029.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school