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Extending your contribution to healthcare practice

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.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU levels correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
2 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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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.

Vocational relevance

This practice based learning module can be taken as a standalone module or as a module of the Certificate of Higher Education in Healthcare Practice, Foundation Degree in Healthcare Practice and Diploma of Higher Education in Healthcare Practice. The Foundation Degree/Diploma provides an opportunity for healthcare support workers to become Assistant Practitioners or work towards some other recognisable career progression.

Outside the UK

This module explores healthcare provision from predominately a UK perspective. The module team have ensured that the module is relevant to the Republic of Ireland. Where policies are highlighted, students from the Republic of Ireland should consider content from the perspective of relevant local and national policy.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

For this module you’ll be 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’ll have opportunity to debate issues that arise in your studies and practice-based learning. It’s therefore important that you actively take part in the forums. You’ll also have an opportunity to discuss, both with your tutor and with fellow students, any issues and concerns that you have. If you’re new to the OU, you’ll 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’ll also be allocated a practice tutor/academic assessor– 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/academic assessor 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.

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 November 2021, the last time it will be available for study.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

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

    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.


    Start End England fee Register
    06 Nov 2021 Sep 2022 £3168.00

    To register for this course - see 'Entry requirements'. Registration closes 07/10/21

    November 2021 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
    Unfortunately, we are unable to accept online registrations for this module. For further information, see the Entry requirements section of this module description or contact us.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2022. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 28/09/2021.

    What's included

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

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • a practice calendar guiding learning in practice and learning for practice
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • assignment and submission details
    • online tutorial access
    • discussion forums with fellow students
    • Work-based practice portfolio

    You will also receive a printed copy of the Portfolio and supporting guidance at the start of the module.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    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.

    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.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.