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Understanding nursing: knowledge and theory

Qualification dates
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You will study this module if you are registered on a pre-registration nursing programme (PRNP). Your learning will be online in field-specific groups supported by a module tutor and structured around enquiry-based practices using case scenarios/vignettes that will encourage you to be an active learner. You will contribute to the learning of your peers by coming together bi-weekly to share knowledge and experiences in a safe and non-threatening environment.

What you will study

This module progresses from foundational health and social care at OU level 1 and will develop generic and field-specific nursing content, allowing you to deep dive into the four fields of practice – Adult, Children and Young People, Learning Disabilities and Mental Health – through use of an enquiry-based learning (EBL) approach. You'll be introduced to the broad principles that underpin nursing practice in accordance with the Nursing and Midwifery Council Standards of proficiency for registered nurses (NMC 2018), and use case scenarios and vignettes to discover a range of caring interventions.

The learning materials on the module website encompass five key themes:

  • Developing a professional identity
  • Improvement science and patient safety
  • Development across the life course
  • Integrated services
  • Wellbeing.

During tutorials you will be guided to study specific EBL materials  to help you respond to and learn from the case scenarios and vignettes that you will discuss within tutorials. Your tutor will also guide you towards certain lines of enquiry where essential learning is necessary, for example, physiology, skills rationale, public health initiatives. We have identified these learning materials as essential for your study, and you’ll see these pages marked ‘Essential for study’ within the EBL materials. The remaining learning materials are available for you to study; you will be able to select lines of enquiry where you have a personal interest based on the scenario. You are also expected to study outside OU learning materials by seeking further information from the internet, as well as drawing on local trust and national policies to inform your tuition and practice.

This is the theory module that sits alongside Developing nursing practice (K211) and focuses on the development of your practice as part of the BSc (Honours) Nursing. It should be noted that in most instances, this module will run concurrently with K211 and therefore the content has been shaped to facilitate your application of learning to practice. 

You will learn

This module contributes to a professional qualification. The following outcomes informed the content and assessment of the module:

  • Ability to think critically when applying evidence and drawing on experience to make evidence-informed decisions in all situations
  • Demonstrating resilience and emotional intelligence to explain the rationale that influences judgements and decisions in routine, complex and challenging situations
  • Promoting non-discriminatory, person-centred and sensitive care, reflecting on people’s values and beliefs, diverse backgrounds, cultural characteristics, language requirements, needs and preference
  • Taking responsibility for continuous self-reflection, seeking and responding to support and feedback to develop professional knowledge and skills.

Entry requirements

This module is not available for standalone study. It is open only to students on the Pre-Registration Nursing Programme who are sponsored by their employer.

To study this module you should have:
  • satisfied the entry requirements for the qualification
  • registered on the BSc (Honours) Nursing (any field of practice)
  • normally completed the two OU level 1 modules Introducing health and social care (K102/KYN(L)102) and Introduction to health care practice (K104/KYN(L)104) or demonstrate equivalent knowledge
  • met the NMC entry requirements; demonstrated good character and health status through self- declaration; enhanced criminal disclosure; occupational health screening; review of previous sickness and absence; two references, one from current employer.

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

What's included

Online learning materials and resources. You will have access to a module website, through which teaching and library resources are available that provide links to current information and relevant research-based materials relating to module content.

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 Ventura 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

Online tuition will be via synchronous Adobe Connect meetings with bi-weekly online group tutorials. Where essential learning is necessary learning materials will be labelled as ‘Essential for study’. The remaining learning materials are available for you to study; you will be able to select lines of enquiry where you have a personal interest based on the scenario. You are expected to study additional sources of evidence beyond the learning materials within the module website. This will be achieved by seeking further information from the internet, as well as drawing on local trust and national policies to inform your tuition and practice.

Online tutorials will run in field-specific tutor groups. Students seeking individual support will be able to do so through their tutor.

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.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying KYN210 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

Understanding nursing: knowledge and theory starts twice a year – in February and October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024 and February 2025.

We expect it to start for the last time in February 2028.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment