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Extending your contribution to healthcare practice

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This online, practice-based module is designed for healthcare assistants working across a range of healthcare settings. In this module, you will explore the opportunities and challenges you may face in promoting healthy lifestyles, in caring for people with acute and long-term conditions, and providing end-of-life care. Investigating a range of case studies will enable you to reflect on your practice and develop the knowledge, understanding and skills required to meet patient/service users’ needs and enhance your practice. Throughout the module you will apply your learning to practice where your competence will be assessed.

What you will study

This module, which runs over ten months, will enable you to develop your healthcare knowledge and practice. In particular, your studies both during the study period and after completion of the module will help you to maintain the currency of your practice within an ever-changing healthcare environment and may also enhance your future career development.

The study materials use case studies and audio recordings of practitioners and service users to explore your role in delivering care. The learning activities relate the study materials to your practice to develop further your knowledge and understanding of evidence-based healthcare.

The module is made up of four blocks of study with concurrent practice-based skills development.

Block 1 Promoting health: opportunities and challenges

This block begins by setting the scene for the module. You then go on to explore the opportunities and challenges arising from maintaining physical and mental health across the life-course. You also reinforce and extend your understanding of key skills for promoting health, undertake learning activities in practice, and build evidence of learning for your Portfolio.

Block 2 Understanding long-term conditions

This block focuses on long-term conditions across the life-course, making use of case studies to explore stroke, dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diabetes and enduring mental health. It builds practical and professional skills in identifying and assessing healthcare needs, and supporting service users in self-care and formal care situations. You extend your knowledge and understanding of relevant UK policies and health trends and of anatomy and physiology relating to long term conditions. In the final unit you explore new initiatives in promoting service user independence, including the growing contribution of telecare and telehealth.

Block 3 Responding to acute conditions

This block starts with an overview of urgent and emergency care services and introduces service user experiences as a theme running across the block.  Throughout this block a range of clinical skills are discussed and these provide the context for wider explorations of urgent and emergency care. The block explores urgent and emergency care in community and hospital settings and a range of case studies are presented, alongside the relevant underpinning anatomy and physiology. The block concludes with a discussion of the quality of care in urgent and emergency care and the importance of service user perspectives.  

Block 4 Providing palliative and end-of-life care

This block explores the context, policy and practice of palliative and end-of-life care. Talk about death and dying and the use of support strategies is encouraged.  A set of case studies are utilised to illustrate some of the challenges for service delivery across a range of different settings. The capacity of service users to make informed decisions and Advanced Care Planning is addressed and the differences between adult, child and young people’s palliative and end-of-life care is discussed.  The use of complementary and alternative medicine is explored alongside a range of skills for practice.  The ethical and legal requirements for practice are also discussed.  All of these elements are fundamental for practitioners working with end-of-life care in the home, hospital, nursing home or hospice.  

The underpinning theoretical element of the module requires 250 hours of study. Teaching will be mainly provided online by a tutor who will support your learning and achievement by providing online tutorials, email/telephone-based support and feedback on assessed work. Online forums provide the opportunity for you to reflect on your practice experiences and to discuss and debate current topics in healthcare practice with your tutor and fellow students.

The development of your healthcare practice (350 hours of practice learning) will be facilitated in your practice setting by a workplace supervisor. This supervisor will be responsible for assessing your competence against a competency checklist using pre-determined criteria. This practice assessment tool is provided via a portfolio which includes guidelines on how to complete it. You will also have an Open University (OU) practice tutor who will be available to support your supervisor and you through review meetings and via telephone and/or email.

You will learn

You will learn how to evaluate and communicate to members of multidisciplinary teams and service users some of the current issues in healthcare policy and practice and to appreciate the similarities and differences in the perspectives of service users, professionals and wider society. You will develop a wide range of practice-based skills, including those related to clinical leadership for healthcare workers at levels 3 and 4 on the Career Framework. You will be encouraged to reflect on your own learning and consider how this may be applied in your everyday practice to meet the needs of service users and their relatives. Such reflection may, at times, challenge some of your values and beliefs in relation to your own practice.

Entry requirements

This module is open only to applicants who can demonstrate they are working in an area which allows them to provide direct patient care for at least two days a week, have support from their employer/organisation and have access to a workplace supervisor. Areas of practice in which students are required to achieve the National Occupational Standards are: communication in your practice setting; personal and professional development; health, safety and security; equality and diversity; health assessment and interventions; and service improvement and quality assurance.
You will be expected to submit a supervision agreement signed by yourself and your employer which includes evidence of good health and character, availability of a supervisor and employer support.

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

What will a workplace supervisor have to do?

To ensure you receive support and assessment decisions that are valid, the workplace supervisor must:

  • be qualified in the same field of practice as the one in which you are practising
  • have completed a minimum of one year’s post-qualifying experience in the same field of practice as the one in which you are practising
  • have completed supervisor preparation as specified in accordance with statutory/professional body standards where available
  • comply with any statutory body/professional standards related to continuing to act as a supervisor, where specified
  • have completed an induction to this module.

Commit to:

  • facilitating your practice-based learning
  • providing supervision commensurate with your competence and confidence
  • liaising with colleagues to access feedback on your practice performance
  • liaising with the practice tutor as required through agreed methods of communication
  • participating in three review meetings between you, your supervisor and practice tutor
  • completing practice assessment records
  • being accountable for the assessment of your practice performance
  • alerting the practice tutor to any concerns about your capacity/ability to meet the standards of conduct and health required of a student in healthcare practice.
If you are not sure if there is someone suitable in your workplace to supervise and assess your practice for this module, please ask to speak to a Health and Social Care Staff Tutor for advice.

Preparatory work

As this module is delivered online it is important to develop your confidence in the use of IT. There are a range of local and online resources to support people in developing their confidence in their IT skills and you may wish to access these in preparing for studying this module. IT support will be provided within the module including an OU Computing helpdesk and exercises you can complete to prepare for your studies.

What's included

All the study materials will be provided online via the website. You will receive a printed Module Guide which will introduce the module and provide information on how to get started online.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

For this module you are allocated a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Your tuition will be delivered online or through other virtual means. Contact with your tutor will be through email, online discussion forums and telephone conversations.

Through the online discussion forums, you will have opportunity to debate issues that arise in your studies and practice-based learning. It is therefore important that you actively take part in the forums. You will also have an opportunity to discuss, both with your tutor and with fellow students, any issues and concerns that you have. If you are new to the OU, you will find that your tutor will be keen to help you develop your study skills and succeed in your studies.

If you encounter difficulties, either with your understanding of ideas and concepts from the module or with your study skills, your tutor or a specialist tutor (for example in supporting students with dyslexia) can help. If you do need extra support or arrangements to accommodate any special requirements, you can access the services provided by your Student Support Team. These cover preparation and induction, learning skills support (including examination preparation), services to students with a disability or additional requirement, and educational and careers advice and guidance.

You will also be allocated a practice tutor – a knowledgeable practitioner who will meet with you and your workplace supervisor at the beginning of the module to explain the portfolio and practice assessment requirements and answer any questions. The practice tutor will also be available to you via email/telephone should any queries arise during the module. Around the mid-point of the module a second three-way meeting will be held to review how your practice-based learning is going and discuss any concerns you or your supervisor may have. Towards the end of the module a third three-way meeting will be held to confirm the practice assessment requirements and respond to any remaining queries.

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 will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) comprises a project and a portfolio. Details for submitting this work are given in the Assessment Guide.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K236 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

Extending your contribution to healthcare practice starts twice a year – in November and May. This page describes the module that will start in May 2020 and November 2020. We expect it to start for the last time in May 2021.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
2 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school