10 Apr 2008

Northern Ireland’s nurses to benefit from new partnership between OU and RCN

The Open University and the Royal College of Nursing, Northern Ireland, are joining forces in an innovative new learning partnership, to be officially launched at Parliament Buildings, Belfast, on Friday April 11.

This new strategic alliance will unite the OU’s high quality open learning programmes and the RCN’s excellent learning opportunities to improve access to high quality health care education in Northern Ireland.

The partnership recognises that part-time and distance learning offer several key benefits, including much greater flexibility for nursing staff from remote areas who may previously have had no option but to leave their communities – and health care jobs – in order to study. The range of courses on offer will be attractive to staff at all levels who want to develop their careers, from health care support workers to senior practitioners.

Part-time flexible learning also offers considerable benefits to health and social care employers, supporting their employees to develop their skills ‘on-the-job’ to meet the changing needs of the health service and fill gaps in the ageing workforce.

Part-time study has the potential to enable more students to stay with their studies and avoid student debt by earning as they are learning.
Rosemary Hamilton, Director of The Open University in Ireland, said the new partnership would improve both accessibility and quality in health care education.

"This partnership will bring together the excellent learning programmes offered by the RCN with the OU’s high quality open learning courses to create a ladder of learning for health and social care service staff that extends from access and return to learning courses, through pre-registration nursing right up to postgraduate degrees.

"This Alliance can enhance the potential for us to reach out and draw in new learners whose circumstances may prevent them from engaging in more traditional forms of learning and we can do this in every corner of Northern Ireland.

"Particularly, our courses and programmes are designed for people already working in the Service and are very firmly work-based thereby providing accessible lifelong learning opportunities at all stages in the development of their careers.

"And not only will learners benefit, we are also confident that employers will be supported in achieving service goals and that, together, we can help deliver the modern, flexible, responsive and skilled workforce that our health service needs to enhance patient care."

Mary Hinds, Director, RCN Northern Ireland, said aligning the RCN’s learning programmes with existing OU programmes creates a new approach to flexible and responsive learning opportunities and the health and social care workforce.

"This partnership will make a real difference to nurses and health care support workers across Northern Ireland who would sometimes be unable to access higher education courses to support their careers.

"The alliance offers staff access to courses that are flexible, allowing them to develop their careers but at the same time fulfil their work and family commitments. This development will support nurses in an effective way which ultimately will benefit patient care."

Case Studies of two of the students who have benefited from the scheme are available to download from the link opposite.

Editor’s Notes

The Open University is Ireland’s leading provider of part-time open learning education with over 8,500 local students. The OU in Ireland has 46 staff in the Belfast Regional Centre, 7 in the Dublin Enquiry and Advice Centre and 393 part-time tutors.

The Royal College of Nursing is the UK’s largest professional association and union for nursing with over 390,000 members. The RCN represents nurses and nursing, promotes excellence in practice and shapes health policies.

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