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Mastering clinical skills during a pandemic

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Published on 18 July 2022

ACP Graduates
ACP Graduates

The MSc Advanced Clinical Practitioner (ACP) is a higher-level clinical apprenticeship programme designed and developed with local NHS trusts for healthcare professionals, working at an advanced level, to further develop their practice for the benefits of the patients and communities in which they work.

But just several months after signing up to the new programme in 2019 – the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the new apprentices, all key workers, began their fight on the frontline against the disease. But despite the unprecedented challenges they faced, they manage to balance their university work with their senior clinical roles.

This week, they all proudly share the stage, as the first apprentices to graduate at the Stadium of Light, from the new programme.

ACP Programme Leader Victoria Duffy said: “This graduating cohort represent so much, not only are they fantastic individuals who have worked tirelessly to achieve their goals and Master’s qualification, but they have done so during a pandemic, working in high pressured and advanced clinical roles in health care whilst studying, home schooling and dealing with all the associated pandemic challenges.

“Yet despite this they have made phenomenal progress individually, for their clinical teams, services and the patients and carers within.

“I could not be prouder to have them as our first graduating cohort.”

The Apprentices have given their verdicts on the new ACP programme, reflecting on their university journey.

Amanda Hay, Lead Advanced Clinical Practitioner in the Emergency Department of Sunderland Royal Hospital, said: “It has been great to be part of the first cohort of ACPs to graduate. It has given me the tools to progress in all four pillars of advanced practice and validated the level of clinical practice that I work to, based on a solid grounding in critical appraisal and evidenced based practice. I have also developed as a clinical leader and educator during this time and have successfully gained a work-based promotion.”

Victoria said: “Amanda works in a busy emergency department and has balanced the demands of a Master’s apprenticeship with a senior clinical role during a pandemic. Neither of which are easy tasks! She has shown unwavering dedication, diligence and enthusiasm throughout the programme and its many challenges.”

Helen House, a Nurse Consultant in mental health crisis, said: “When I started the ACP course I was a Clinical Lead/NMP within a busy mental health crisis team. I was keen to undertake a Master’s to enable further career progression. The ACP programme stood as out as perfect. It fit with what I was already doing and what I wanted to achieve more knowledge and skill in. I was fortunate enough to gain a Nurse Consultant post mid-way through the ACP course and I have been fortunate enough to be in a position whereby I could complete the ACP course and also influence progression pathway of others.”

ACP Programme Leader, Victoria Duffy, said: “Helen is a fantastic ambassador for advanced practice and has made significant progress across her specialist field of practice in crisis intervention. Her unwavering enthusiasm, diligence and happy smile, together with a steely determination and excellent clinical and academic ability make her an outstanding ACP.”

Jonathan Haggerty, a Nurse Consultant in Psychiatric Liaison, said:

“Undertaking a Master’s has been invaluable in improving my practice. The modules on the reflected my day to day working as an ACP. This learning gained from this course enabled me to respond quickly to rapidly changing patient needs during the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst maintaining high levels of patient care.”

Victoria said: “Jonathan is a pleasure to work with and has really made outstanding progress both academically and clinically. He is a great role model within advanced practice and has begun to share his brilliance both locally and nationally which is fantastic!

“Despite the complexities of the last couple of years Jonathan remains calm, focused and productive. A real combination of attributes which are required in advanced practice.”

Melanie Hyman, a Nurse Consultant in inpatient mental health care, said: “The ACP course has provide me with an amazing opportunity to enhance and develop my skills as a senior clinician. On starting the course I was working in a ward manger role and wanted to move into more clinical focused role. The application of the knowledge and skills

gained on the course has enabled my progression from a ward manger to a clinical nurse specialist and now as a nurse consultant.

“I have had amazing support from both my academic and educational supervisors alongside my colleagues within our cohort and despite the challenging times of Covid the course has provided me with career changing opportunities and developed me personally and professionally

Victoria said: “Mel exemplifies ACP. She has worked phenomenally hard undertaking a Master’s apprenticeship with additional study alongside to ensure that she can provide an outstanding service for patient, carers and to develop services within her specialist area. Mel is an outstanding academic and has produced publication standard work throughout her programme. The positivity and enthusiasm Mel demonstrates for her clinical practice and the way she has tacked the programme shows a dedication which is rare and genuine and has led to the nomination for the Ede Ravenscroft Award for outstanding achievement at graduation.”

Alfred Chirimuta – ACP community mental health, said: “As an ACP I have been able to provide enhanced leadership for the team while dealing with ever evolving patient needs complicated by Covid. A good understanding and appraisal of evidence-based information, has allowed me to implement clinical interventions that are up to date and keeping up with emerging trends. This has included completing physical health monitoring for patients on Clozapine or Lithium or administering depot injections for example where clinicians have been extremely worried due to positive Covid cases. Providing education on how to manage the welfare of our patients and how we can safely deliver care while maintaining the health and well-being of staff and service users alike formed a large part of my role as an ACP.

Victoria said: “Alfred has worked extremely hard maintaining a community service, undertaking a Master’s apprenticeship and significantly developing his scope of clinical practice all during the Covid pandemic. Making excellent clinical and academic progression all the while demonstrating a positive approach to his development and that of the team, for the benefits of the patients in his care, are what sets Alfred aside as an Advanced Clinical Practitioner.

Fiona Turnbull, ACP General Practice, said: “The Advanced Clinical Practice Masters course offers the opportunity to upskill and standardise practice across the ACP profession.

Standardised skill levels of advanced clinical practitioners should encourage patient awareness and confidence in the role.

Within Primary Care/General Practice, as an advanced clinical practitioner working alongside GP colleagues and the clinical team to promote accessible quality care for patients”

Victoria said: “Fiona has worked incredibly hard during her Master’s apprenticeship and made significant changes and real benefits to patient care in general practice as a result. She has shown diligent determination and a passion for her specialist area and the opportunity to develop and embed ACP within it.”