University of Chester

Programme Specification
Critical Care GradCert
2015 - 2016

Graduate Certificate

Critical Care

Critical Care

University of Chester

University of Chester

Riverside and/or University of Chester sites determined by the Faculty of Health and Social Care. Provision can be made for International delivery.

Continuing Professional Development


Classroom / Laboratory,

1 year

3 Years

Annual - September


17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Health and Social Care Health and Social Care

QAA Level Descriptors and the National Standards for Critical Care Nurse Education (2012)

Undergraduate Post-registration MAB

Thursday 1st May 2014

The principal aim of the programme is to produce professionals with advanced knowledge and skills who can provide safe, high quality services for the public, and support improvements in the Critical Care environment. To deliver this the programme is designed to achieve the following educational aims:

  • To facilitate learners to achieve the key service requirements underpinning NHS strategic goals, and national standards for critical care nurse education.
  • To promote a culture that embraces quality and progressive innovation ensuring that practitioners constantly critically seek to improve critical care service provision.
  • To promote the critical application of current research, scholarship and reflective practice through support and access to clinically and academically credible professionals.
  • To support and encourage student potential by providing a learning experience that enhances both theoretical knowledge and clinical skills utilising a blended learning approach.

  • Develop specialist knowledge and skills in order to deliver, and promote the delivery of, evidence-based practice that addresses the physiological, psychological, sociological and cultural needs of critically ill patients within the context of multi-disciplinary care teams.
  • Evaluate care delivered through the critical application of specialist knowledge and skills to meet the needs of their specific client population.
  • Critically appraise the research underpinning nursing practice and modern healthcare, and apply knowledge in an enterprising way (including the use of advanced technologies appropriate to the critical care role).


  • Apply an in-depth knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology to the techniques and treatment modalities employed when caring for patients with critical care needs.
  • Critically analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of quality assurance and risk management strategies to create and maintain a safe environment.
  • Critically reflect on professional expertise, clinical judgement and ethical decision-making skills used in the collaborative provision of healthcare in the critical care setting.
  • Critically evaluate strategies of leadership, management and communication, and the influence of personal and professional values, which would optimise clinical decision-making within the critical care team.

Students coming onto the Critical Care Graduate Certificate programme will be autonomous learners and will already possess key skills required for the modules. This will be evident through the entry requirements, and also the level and nature of their present position as health professionals and the previous courses of study they have undertaken. The key skills will be developed further throughout the programme.

  • Critically appraise professional role in the application of legal responsibilities and ethical principles in the holistic care of critically ill patients.
  • Develop a greater understanding of the biopsychosocial principles which underpin the various aspects of caring for the critically ill patient.
  • Demonstrate competence in holistic assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of care delivery for critically ill patients.
  • Application of numbers: Students accessing the programme will be working at a level that requires them to be numerate. Examples in clinical practice are clinical measurements, audit and statistical analysis, and work load activities. These skills will be built upon throughout the programme, particularly in the research-based modules.
  • Information technology: The students' IT skills, gained from current clinical practice, should be such as to enable them to access the University intranet, bibliographical databases and the internet for academic and clinical studies, use the library effectively, and perform literature searches and reviews. Their existing skills will be enhanced in the library induction and information skill session at the beginning of the programme, which will be specific to the University resources. The facilities of the wider University will also be open to the student. Study skills sessions are held at the beginning of each academic year and the services of the Learning Support Tutor will be available at other times. The students' IT skills will normally be evidenced in the production of word-processed assignments.
  • Improving own learning and performance: This programme is designed to facilitate the student in their development on both personal and professional levels. This will be evidenced and assessed through written work and within the workplace through clinical competences.

The programme ensures that students are facilitated in their development of key skills throughout the modules

Transferable Professional Skills:
The programme fosters many transferable skills. These may be considered under Key Skills above, but also from the range of professional practice which the practitioner on the programme experiences.

Effective communication skills will be inherent in all the modules.

  • Consistently demonstrate effective communication, interpersonal skills and a collaborative approach towards patients, their families and the healthcare team.
  • Critically evaluate strategies of leadership and communication, and the influence of personal and professional values, in leading and taking a substantial role in the local, national and global community.

Working with others:
The student's ability to work with others will be demonstrated in both the classroom and clinical areas, and evidenced in the completion of the critical care competencies.

Problem solving:
This area will be developed in all modules and will be demonstrated through the reflective analysis of practice.

The Graduate Certificate in Critical Care is designed to provide a contemporary learning experience for critical care nurses incorporating the National Standards for Critical Care Nurse Education published in 2012 (CC3N 2012). The standards' philosophy outlines that critically ill patients have a right to receive safe high quality care from skilled competent practitioners. The document highlights three specific steps, step 1 being completed in practice prior to entering the proposed programme, whilst steps 2 and 3 will be achieved during the programme and are an integral part of learning in theory and practice.

The programme will equip the practitioner with the necessary skills and in-depth knowledge of critical care, and provide them with the ability to apply that knowledge to clinical practice. This will be achieved by delivery of a variety of teaching and learning methods, and the assessment of both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Module content will holistically address the needs of clients in critical care, and will include a range of specialist subject matter as outlined in the National Standards for Critical Care Nurse Education and the National Competency Framework for Adult Critical Care Nursing (CC3N 2012).

The programme will build on the graduates' previous experience and current professional practice. The curriculum ensures that by the end of the programme the students will have gained an holistic understanding of critical care nursing. The programme content will address key elements within Critical Care patient care, and include the following principal themes:

  • Respiratory system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Renal system
  • Professionalism and defensible documentation
  • Leadership, communication and teamwork
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • End of life care
  • Inter- and intra-hospital transfers (admission and discharge)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurological system
  • Innovations in critical care
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Infection prevention and control
  • Psychosocial wellbeing
  • Medicines management
  • Integumentary system
  • Ethics and Law

The pathway aims to deliver the modules in sequential order, allowing for the following pathway: NM6230, NM6231, followed by NM6232.  The modules have been designed to enable progression of the student through the systems-based A&P, and the specialist knowledge and skills required to effectively assess, plan, deliver and evaluate care to this complex group of patients. The programme consists of three modules each designed to reflect the essential components of the step 2 and 3 competencies, and aligned with the key service requirements which underpin the NHS strategic goals and the National Standards for Critical Care Nurse Education.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
NM6230 6 Principles of Critical Care Nursing 20 Comp
NM6231 6 Advancing Knowledge and Practice in Critical Care Nursing 20 Comp
NM6232 6 Caring for Complex Clients in Critical Care 20 Comp

Successful completion of NM6230 Principles of Critical Care Nursing, NM6231 Advancing Knowledge and Practice in Critical Care Nursing and NM6232 Caring for Complex Clients in Critical Care, in sequential order to accredita total of 60 level 6 credits, will lead to an exit award of a Graduate Certificate in Critical Care.

Each module consists of a number of assessments, each assessment must be passed in order to pass the module.

For our Graduate Certificate programme we will normally require that the applicants:

  • Must be a registered nurse or practitioner.
  • Must have completed twelve months' post-registration experience. 
  • Normally have completed Step 1 of the National Competency Framework for Adult Critical Care Nurses.
  • Must have a letter from the student's manager indicating agreement to support the learner in practice including the allocation of a suitable mentor.
  • It is expected that the student will be working within a critical care environment during the programme - this will extend to a minimum of 18 hours per week with access to level 3 patients.
  • Evidence of personal and professional development.
  • Be qualified at IELTS level 7 or equivalent (if English is not their first language).

Advice and guidance on APL/AP(E)L will be provided on application if required.

Module descriptors were developed with full recognition of the national benchmark of 100 hours of student effort per 10 credits. The programme outcomes are commensurate with those expressed for the levels of study in the HE Qualifications Framework (HEQF).

In considering the characteristics associated with graduate (level 6) programmes of study the learning outcomes of the modules are designed to reflect the benchmark statements. Within NM6230 Principles of Critical Care Nursing the students demonstrate a systematic understanding of key aspects of their field of study, including acquisition of coherent and detailed knowledge, at least some of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of defined aspects of the Critical Care discipline, and an appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of knowledge. By including the opportunity for the development of understanding research within this module the student will develop the ability to manage their own learning, and to make use of scholarly reviews and primary sources (for example, refereed research articles and/or original materials appropriate to the discipline.

In undertaking NM6231 Advancing Knowledge and Practice in Critical Care Nursing the student will develop an ability to deploy accurately established techniques of analysis and enquiry within a critical care environment throughout the pathway for the certificate. Development of existing knowledge and skills and also the acquisition of new knowledge and skills and critical reflection on theory and practice is built upon in NM6231 Advancing Knowledge and Skills in Critical Care Nursing. The student will develop decision-making in complex and unpredictable contexts and critically evaluate arguments, assumptions, abstract concepts and data (that may be incomplete), to make judgements, and to frame appropriate questions to achieve a solution - or identify a range of solutions - to a problem, and by way of the assessments be able to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions to both specialist and non-specialist audiences.

In NM6232 Caring for Complex clients in Critical Care the student is working towards the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility. They will be able to apply the methods and techniques that they have learned to review, consolidate, extend and apply their knowledge and understanding, and to initiate and carry out projects and by undertaking the variety of assessments this enables the student: to devise and sustain arguments, and/or to solve problems, using ideas and techniques, some of which are at the forefront of a discipline; and to describe and comment upon particular aspects of current research, or equivalent advanced scholarship, in critical care.  This ultimately enables the student the learning ability needed to undertake appropriate further training of a professional or equivalent nature.

In addition, the modules are designed to incorporate and fulfil the National Standards of Critical Care Nurse Education (2012) which state that:

Educational programmes should:

  • Be accessible to post-registration professionals (nurses) working in a critical care environment.
  • Be responsive to the needs of the service through a modular and flexible approach (NM6230, NM6231 and NM6232).
  • Include all stakeholders in development and delivery strategies.
  • Ensure continuity, consistency and sustainability.
  • In accordance with the Framework for Higher Education Qualification (FHEQ) provide a graduate certificate at academic Level 6 with a minimum of 60 credits, to be recognised as a nationally transferrable ‘award’ or equivalent title, in critical care nursing. For bachelor's degree with honours, at level 6, the qualification should also meet the expectation of the degree with honours qualification benchmark.
  • Work towards delivery of postgraduate certificates at academic level 7 post 2012 in accordance with national recommendations.
  • Allow delivery by a variety of methods (NM6230, NM6231 and NM6232).
  • Allow opportunities for recognition of previous education, knowledge or skills through Accreditation of Prior and Experiential Learning (AP(E)L) processes.
  • Take into account any nationally recognised competency frameworks. Prepare students to meet nationally recognised occupational standards for critical care.And that the curriculum should:
  • Consist of a standard core content of learning, designed to achieve set learning outcomes.
  • Assess both theoretical knowledge and practical skills (NM6230, NM6231 and NM6232).
  • Generate transferable evidence.
  • Have holistic content which is speciality specific (NM6230, NM6231 and NM6232).
  • Have the ability to be mapped against the Knowledge & Skills Framework (KSF).
  • Typically enable attainment of ‘qualification’ within 12 months/academic year, up to a maximum of two years under extenuating circumstances. (This may be agreed between healthcare and academic providers to meet local regulations.)
  • Be matched locally against QAA descriptors.
  • Be supported by Critical Care Networks, where they exist.

The composition of the planning team ensured that there were members with experience of external consultancy and external examining, which is invaluable in quality assuring the programme against national benchmarks and expectations. The validation process also ensures that experts from other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) were fully involved in the scrutiny and validation process, further assuring the comparability of the programme with other HEIs.

The learning and teaching methods selected for the programme are reflective of the guidance outlined in the QAA (2010) document Degree Characteristics the HEA UK Professional Standards Framework. A range of approaches to teaching and learning using both didactic and interactive methods will be used; these are designed to facilitate the achievement of all module learning outcomes. A student-centred approach focusing on student needs, professional standing and ability will form the philosophy and approach adopted by the module leaders, facilitating a positive learning experience. The acquisition of core knowledge, skills and attitudes will be through a combination of:

  • Lectures, which are interactive and encourage discussion and debate.
  • Case studies.
  • Seminars and workshops.
  • Practice learning and assessment.
  • Role play and simulation, including debriefing.
  • Online resources.
  • Audio-visual resources, such as podcasts, videos and interactive case studies.
  • Tutorials including interactive tutorials.
  • Discussion groups.
  • Problem-based learning.
  • Peer learning.
  • Critical reflection.
  • Formative assessment.
  • Self-directed learning/tutor-directed learning.
  • Presentations and seminars by visiting lecturers.

The programme team are committed to fostering the personal and professional development of the student. The critical and analytical development of knowledge, synthesis and understanding will be promoted by the students' involvement in debates, practice learning discussions, case study examination, tutorials, role play and critical reflection, and via the support of their personal academic tutor.

Inter-professional learning is addressed within the programme by the nature of practice learning (a minimum of 18 hours per week).

Students who experience difficulty in meeting the requirements of degree level study will be able and encouraged to access the Student Support and Guidance department. The programme will provide an induction where details of support mechanisms, library services and University regulations will be provided. This knowledge will then be reinforced in the student handbook.

The programme will utilise a range of academic module assessments that reflect the nature of the Critical Care student.

Students will be required to demonstrate a range of skills in meeting the academic requirements of the programme including:

  • Write essays that will involve critically analysing and evaluating critical care case studies.
  • Critically reflect on role play activities.
  • Undertake assessed practice simulation in the clinical environment.
  • Achieve a set of practice competencies.
  • Undertake assessed presentations.
  • Undertake an examination.

All aspects of the assessment strategy will be used to evaluate transferable/key skills and, where relevant, mapped against national benchmarks.

The programme offers students the opportunity to achieve the characteristics of a graduate, and it is assessment criteria based upon QAA and University of Chester documents which define these characteristics (see below):

Demonstrate reasoning with regard to complex issues, which shows an ability to explore and develop alternative solutions.

Apply the methods, techniques and modes of practice that they have learned and review, consolidate, extend and apply their knowledge and understanding.

Theory/practice link
Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of relevant knowledge and applicable techniques enabling them to take initiatives and accept significant responsibility within organisations.

Demonstrate critical analysis and be able to deal with complex issues.

Consider abstract data, concepts and/or raw materials and frame appropriate questions to achieve a solution - or identify a range of solutions to a problem.

Evaluating evidence and argument
Ability to deploy accurately established techniques of analysis and enquiry.

Reaching sound judgements
Ability to critically evaluate current research, methodology and scholarship.

Ability to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions, in a variety of formats appropriate to both specialist and non-specialist audiences.

The graduate will have developed skills associated with professional practice within their chosen professional role. Knowledge and skills will be continually learnt through the modules, a process which will be enhanced in option modules and culminate in the dissertation module which will underpin the application of theory to practice. They will be able to demonstrate appropriate levels of decision-making, and to monitor and improve standards of service delivery, within their chosen setting.

On completion, these graduates will be equipped to deliver the highest quality evidence-based practice appropriate to their work-based setting.

The programme conforms to the University's Diversity and Equality Policy and the appropriate codes of practice. The Faculty of Health and Social Care is fully committed to the support of all their students whatever their circumstances. Over the years the Faculty of Health and Social Care has both sought advice and received training in the support of students with a wide variety of disabilities or specific needs. All students undertaking the programme will receive support and guidance through a number of service and support mechanisms within both the Faculty and the wider University:

  • Academic support and assessment guidance from the module leader. 
  • Support throughout from the programme leader. 
  • The Student Support and Guidance department, available to all University of Chester students. 
  • The programme handbook, available on the University intranet. 
  • Module handbooks that give more specific details of each module than contained in the module descriptor, e.g. specific breakdown of content including timetabled sessions, and an updated illustrative reading list to ensure that recommended reading remains relevant and current. 
  • Module descriptors, timetables and associated learning materials, e.g. learning packs, accessible via the intranet.
  • Induction programme. 
  • Guidance on APL/AP(E)L, available through the AP(E)L team.

No student will be disadvantaged on the basis of age, sexual orientation, disability, faith or race. Further information can be found on the Equality and Diversity Page accessed from the University Portal at

The maximum length of study for the programme will normally be 1 year however their is allowances for 2 years in exceptional circumstances. 

It is envisaged that by adhering to the recommendations of the National Standards of Critical Care Education, the programme will be benchmarked by CC3N. Derogation will be sought with respect to the assessment components for each module. Two of the components of modules are weighted and will be set up with 40% qualifying pass mark to make up the overall module mark.  The practice documents (Critical Care National Competencies) which will be undertaken whilst in practice will be marked on a Pass/Fail basis.  Students must therefore pass ALL components in order to pass the module. This will bring this programme in line with the majority of the Faculty’s postgraduate nursing and midwifery provision (non-NMC approved).  

Where theory is linked to practice and there are practice-based components within each module, derogation is sought in order to comply with the NMC Code (Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives) which includes the following statements: 

Nurses and midwives must provide a high standard of care at all times, including:

  •  You must deliver care based on the best available evidence or best practice.
  •  You must have the knowledge and skills for safe and effective practice.
  •   You must recognise and work within the limits of your competence.
  •   You must keep your knowledge and skills up to date throughout your working life.
  •   You must take part in appropriate learning and practice activities that maintain and develop your competence and performance.



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