“Innovations in Advanced Practice Education:

The Time is Now”

Our annual conference was hosted this year by the University of the West of England Bristol on Friday 3rd March 2017.   We were delighted to welcome approximately 80 delegates from across all four countries of the UK, and two academics from Norway.

We will provide the slides from many of the presentations through Slideshare, however I thought it would be useful to provide a brief review of the day for those people who were unable to join us.

I opened the conference and reflected on the significant expansion of AAPE UK since the original meeting of Nurse Practitioner course providers in 2001.  Membership is currently stable around 35 HEI’s with new ones joining as advanced practice education provision expands.

Professor Steven Neill, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean of Health and Applied Sciences, UWE Bristol, welcomed us and observed that the need for advanced practice knowledge and skills has never been higher in the health service.

The three themes for the day were Policy updates, Innovation in education and the Impact of education.

Policy updates

We noted that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were all in the implementation phase of the advanced practice policies, with dedicated funding streams.

Health Education England has been providing a dedicated workforce development funding stream for advanced clinical practice since 2015, however this is likely to cease due to financial challenges.  They established an Advanced Clinical Practice work stream with a Steering Group in 2016 chaired by Mark Radford (Director of Nursing for Improvement, NHS Improvement) and Charlotte Beardmore (Director of Professional Policy, Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR).  Ruth Pearce (University of Nottingham, former Chair AAPE UK) is a member of this group representing AAPE UK. I am a member of the Working group which includes representation from all of the HEE Local Offices.

Mark Radford had been invited to provide an update on the work to date but was unfortunately not able to join us.  Therefore Ruth and I reviewed the outputs to date – definition and case studies which are now available on the website page – and the plans to release the core capabilities and other guidance within a framework document in the near future.


Discussion with delegates focused on the importance of emphasising the need for Masters education, with emphasis on all 4 pillars of advanced practice, and rigorous assessments.   Concerns were raised that funding pressures could lead to in-house quick fix training and the resultant loss of the safe, effective, value-added approach demonstrated by our graduates.

Innovation in education

Lynn Sutcliffe (University of Cumbria) then provided an overview of their distance learning provision utilising e-learning to the full for their  UK and internationally based student group.  Lynn noted this approach does not suit the learning style for all students.  She highlighted it requires more staff resources than face-to-face teaching, however it has proved a very successful flexible approach with increasing student numbers.

Another example of innovation was reviewed by Annabella Gloster (University of Salford) and Anna Jones (Cardiff University).  Both HEI’s have replaced their traditional Dissertation module with a substantial Portfolio.  They had to make strong cases to argue that this approach retained academic rigour and enabled demonstration of critical thinking, analysis and synthesis across the required components with accompanying reflection.  Each had different requirements  and timescales for collation of the evidence but both resulted in portfolios that demonstrated all four pillars of advanced practice.  Annabella noted that more students had gone on to publish related material than had previously following the Dissertation.  Many also continued to maintain and update their Portfolio following graduation.

Anna Jones (Cardiff University) and Emma Thomas (Service Improvement Manager, 1000 Lives Improvement Service) shared their exciting collaborative venture to link the advanced practice students service improvement project dissertation option with a Wales-wide initiative to embed the “Improving Quality Together learning programme” into the development plans for all health service staff.  Students need to link with the Local Health Board and consider how to implement sustainable changes.  The results have been impressive and enable students to gain the Silver award in recognition of their achievements.


A Global Survey of Clinical Education of Advanced Practice Nurses has been conducted by the Education sub-group of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nurse network.  Linda East (University of Nottingham) shared some interesting reflections.  Many countries have a set number of hours which students need to demonstrate to gain the final award.  The underpinning principle is obviously the need for sufficient experience to develop competence and confidence but the quality of the time may be an important factor to consider.  The USA develops their students through placements but with increasing numbers, they are having to reconsider this approach.  Many countries in the survey use the UK model where students undertake the course part-time whilst working in a setting within which their practice can develop. There are challenges with this approach; the quality of the setting cannot be controlled so rigidly and it relies on supportive employers and volunteer mentors, however it does open the programme to a wider range of students.  The 10th ICN NP/APN conference is in Rotterdam, The Netherlands 27-29 August 2018.  This should be an exciting event and a fantastic opportunity for networking considering the last conference in Hong Kong attracted 900 delegates!

Impact of education 

During the day, we heard from the three advanced practice graduates who were invited to share reflections on the way in which their education had developed their practice.

Jimmi Ronaldson is an Advanced Retrieval Practitioner, with the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service in Scotland.  He gained 60 credits with Glasgow Caledonian University through use of a work-based learning contract approach, with a designated supervisor.  This enabled him to develop the specific competencies he needed for the scope of practice in his job description. He used the NHS e-portfolio to gather the evidence to demonstrate achievement of all 4 pillars.  This strategy was clearly effective for achieving the balance for gaining both generic and specialist advanced level knowledge and skills to prepare him for his current and future practice.

Rob Harvey is a Advanced Practitioner Pharmacist in General Practice in Bournemouth.  He recently joined Bournemouth University as a Lecturer/Practitioner.  He shared is experience of using the combination of his advanced practice education and pharmacy background to see patients presenting with undifferentiated problems.  NHS England are promoting this development, which goes beyond the medication advice/review role.


Rob also shared the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Roadmap to Advanced Practice which was launched in November 2016.  This uses the Faculty approach to recognise experience in the workplace, competence and the ability to manage complexity.


I added another aspect of Pharmacist development which is in Emergency Care.  An evaluation has been positive with more HEE pilots currently taking place.


Finally Stuart Wildman, Nurse Consultant Major Trauma, Salford Royal Foundation Trust, reflected on his progression from Advanced Clinical Practitioner to Consultant.  He acknowledged the term Consultant had reduced challenges to his referrals and decision making, but felt that his advanced practice education and experience was absolutely fundamental to his effectiveness at this.  This had enabled him to be the “glue” for the trauma service to ensure an effective service focused on the patient with injuries, rather than the fragmented specialist-specific injury focused approach  that was previously evident.  He was now supporting new advanced clinical practitioners (nurses) but hoped to develop a physiotherapist into this role to utilise multi-professional backgrounds and expertise.

We finished the day with the AGM.  The minutes will be made available on this website.

We are evaluating the day but initial feedback was very positive.

The next conference will be Friday 1st March 2018 in Glasgow.  We will start planning soon so if you want to suggest any speakers or topics, please let me know.

Katrina Maclaine

Chair of AAPE UK & Associate Professor Advanced Practice, London South Bank University