Supporting and Developing the NHS Workforce at AECC University College

Head of Academic Enterprise and Engagement at AECC University College, Claire Nadaf, is responsible for developing and nurturing external stakeholder engagement, alongside the development of new partnerships and enterprising activities. 

Claire brings over fifteen years’ experience within the field of Knowledge Exchange to the role. She is passionate about meaningful stakeholder engagement and developing solutions for workforce development that meet the evolving needs of the health and social care sector.  

Claire has a keen interest in patient safety, simulation, Virtual Reality, and the use of technology for learning. She has been a Registered Nurse for over thirty years, working in the UK and New Zealand in acute adult care.   

Claire tells us more about the partnerships that she is forging between the NHS and AECC University College, her passion for bespoke learning, and her belief in the importance of simulation and VR to healthcare education:  

Partnership with NHS  

“A big part of my role is focused on extending and developing relationships with our external stakeholders, with a particular focus on the NHS – which is my background.  

“For me, working collaboratively and effectively with the NHS is building a ‘give and take’ relationship. The NHS is really important to us for developing our student placements and the future NHS workforce, but it’s crucial that  we’re following a partnership approach.” 

Working to Develop the NHS Workforce  

“At AECC University College, we want to be really responsive to NHS requirements. As soon as there are changes that need to made to the skillsets of the workforce, we want to be on hand to support these through education. 

“We want to help make sure that practitioners have the right knowledge, skills and attributes to be able to deliver care to patients. 

“My expertise is in workforce development. It might be there’s a specific area of training that an NHS Trust has identified that its staff needs. We can work with the Trust to find out exactly where the problem stems from, what the current processes are that might be leading to the problem, and then build some bespoke education around that to improve it.  

“We don’t want to be offering NHS Trusts ‘off the shelf’ training; we’re looking at individual problems and departments and how we can help solve and improve them.  

“It’s about how we work towards changing a particular culture where Universities have a static offer, we are driving a different approach forward which is flexible and responsive to need.” 

Educating to Broaden Scope of Practice  

“One of our longer-term aims is to create a Clinical Faculty here at AECC University College, made up of healthcare professionals who teach with us, but whose focus is their clinical practice.  

“These practitioners will all be specialists in their fields within the NHS and will make fantastic, passionate teachers of that specialty.  

“We have just validated a number of Post-Registration, Professional Development units and courses. For example, we’re offering a Level 7 unit of study that will prepare healthcare professionals such as Physiotherapists to interpret Musculoskeletal X-rays.  

“This course empowers a Physiotherapist to review an X-ray and broadly see if there is anything present that is likely to stop them from treating a patient. This works to broaden practitioners’ scope of practice.  

“You can see this broadening of practice in GP surgeries. 20 years ago, the only option would have been to see a doctor. Nowadays, many interventions can be done by Nurses, Pharmacists, Physiotherapists, Paramedics, Podiatrists and more. We’re always looking at who could deliver care and who’s the best person to do it, placing the patient at the centre of everything we do.” 

Growing First Contact Practice  

“A great example of this is our First Contact Practice course, which is a Postgraduate Certificate, preparing students to become First Contact Practitioners.  

“There’s different branches of this, but it makes most sense for us to be initially specialising in Musculoskeletal, as that’s at the core of AECC University College.  

“We have secured funding from Health Education England; we tendered for AECC University College to become one of three providers to offer a fully-funded First Contact Practice course.   

“Applicants to this course can receive full funding for the course, although they do need to have existing qualifications and experience in Physiotherapy or Osteopathy. 

“If a patient presents at their GP surgery with lower back pain from sitting at their desk for a prolonged period, they would benefit more, and most likely receive appropriate treatment faster, if they saw a First Contact Practitioner.”   

Leading Facilities to Deliver Teaching   

“In January 2022, we submitted a funding bid to Health Education England and were awarded £295,000 to invest in simulation and virtual reality equipment. This funding is designed to help alleviate the pressure placed on the NHS by increasing requirements for student placements. 

“Shortages within NHS workforces mean that placements are an added pressure on resource. This funding and investment gives us the opportunity to do as much simulation around placements as possible, to take the pressure off the NHS workforce. 

“Simulation and virtual reality equipment give us real scope to prepare students effectively for life in a clinical setting when they go on placement. 

“We’re currently also looking into ways of sharing technology and simulation equipment within Dorset; we want to be sharing teaching facilities, equipment and ideas.  

“For example, If we have equipment that is under-utilised at certain times and University Hospitals Dorset needs access to similar equipment, then we’re eager to find ways to give them access to our resources. That’s a big part of the partnership approach that we’re pursuing.” 

Skills Rehearsal Using Simulation 

“If our students are learning to palpate an abdomen, and they are only practising on each other, it’s unlikely that they will learn what it feels like to examine something abnormal, like an enlarged liver. In this scenario, students are limited to examining normal abdomens.  

“Task Trainers enable us to teach this more effectively. For example, we have an Abdominal Task Trainer, which is a mannequin of an abdomen which you can add abnormalities to. As a result, students learn to feel what something abnormal feels like.  

“We have mannequins which can simulate wheezes, pneumonias, and different lung conditions, so that students can hear what that sounds like.   

“This technology allows our students to practice the skills that they need in a safe environment.” 

Virtual Reality  

“The only limitation of simulation is that it restricts the number of students that you can teach at one time; you can only fit so many people around a mannequin for example.  

“At the start of the year, we replaced all of the computers in Cavendish House and fitted them with the capability to run virtual reality programs.  

“We have purchased  Oxford VR Simulation, which simulates scenarios for students such as walking into a patient bay in hospital and being presented with a patient. You can then carry out observations on the patient, or a Chest X-ray, or whatever the scenario is that you are being taught.  

“This gives students the opportunity to practice their skills in a safe way. The system will then give you feedback on the scenario that was simulated: for example, whether you carried out care tasks in the right order.  

“Practising skills in this way is just as valuable for a First Year undergraduate student as it is for an experienced healthcare professional whose role is changing and needs to learn new skills. 

“Technology like the Anatomage Table, a 3D visualisation and dissection virtual tool, allows students to approach the human body from a perspective of self-discovery.  

“Students can leave a lesson, having learned about particular systems and structures within the human body, and go and explore it for themselves using the Anatomage. That’s a wonderful thing for them. 

“Splitting a group of 20 students between simulation with mannequins and Virtual Reality software, all working through the same scenario, offers an effective way of delivering really high quality and varied education experiences in a safe space.” 

You can read more about simulation in teaching at AECC University College here 

Claire Nadaf

Above: Claire Nadaf