University of Chester

Programme Specification
Critical Care PGCert
2016 - 2017

Postgraduate 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)

Postgraduate Module Assessment Board

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 master 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 have a critical and systematic awareness of current practice problems in order to improve critical care service provision.
  • To promote the systematic critical application of current research, scholarship and reflective practice through support and access to clinically and academically credible professionals.
  • To support and encourage student autonomy in their learning that enhances both theoretical knowledge and clinical skills utilising a blended learning approach.

Successful students will be able to;

  • Apply key concepts principles, theories and policies in students’ area of practice related to developing critical care skills, in order to deliver, and promote evidence-based practice that addresses the physiological, psychological, sociological and cultural needs of critically ill patients within the context of multi-disciplinary care teams (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Recognize the uniqueness of students’ own professional practice knowledge and understanding of the role of the practitioner within the context of the wider health agenda (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Demonstrate evidence-based approaches to the ongoing development of the students’ specialist practice and professional role, and the dissemination of information (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Apply and facilitate the research process and relevance to students’ own scholarship (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Demonstrate the ability to respond appropriately in challenging and unpredictable situations (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Develop personal practice in light of forefront developments within the field (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).


Successful students will be able to;

  • Demonstrate the ability to think logically and critically in the interpretation of physiological and clinical data to determine a suitable management plan (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Using problem-solving skills; critically analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of quality assurance and risk management strategies to create and maintain a safe environment (NM7230, NM7231).
  • Develop original and creative responses to problems and help develop strategies to promote health and well-being in individuals, groups and communities (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Assisting policy development in light of new research and/or/evidence (NM7230).
  • Deal with complex issues and problems of anatomy, physiology and pathology to the techniques and treatment modalities employed when caring for patients with critical care needs (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).

Successful students will be able to;

  • Exercise autonomy and initiative at a professional level; identifying strategies to ensure safe and effective person centred care (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Ethically and effectively, practice in ways that show awareness of own and others' roles and responsibilities including the application of legal responsibilities and ethical principles in the holistic care of critically ill patients (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Facilitate effective multidisciplinary/multi agency team working within the critical care environment (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Influence others by using professional skills to effect change when necessary (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Act as an advocate by utilizing innovation and compassion to focus on putting the patients central to their own health care choices (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Comprehensively and critically evaluate strategies of leadership, management and communication, and the influence of personal and professional values, which optimise clinical decision-making within the critical care team (NM7230) 

Successful students will be able to;

  • Use effective communication skills to communicate a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge and expertise using appropriate methods (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Critically evaluate a range of data to improve health (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • 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 (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Demonstrate the ability to use a range of ICT applications required for practice (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Demonstrate higher-level literacy and numeracy skills (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).
  • Undertake critical reflection and development of personal and professional practice (NM7230, NM7231, NM7232).

The Postgraduate 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: NM7230, NM7231, followed by NM7232. 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
NM7230 7 Concepts of Critical Care Nursing 20 Comp
NM7231 7 Advancing Knowledge and Skills in Critical Care Nursing 20 Comp
NM7232 7 Managing Complex Clients in Critical Care 20 Comp

Successful completion of NM7230 Concepts of Critical Care Nursing, NM7231 Advancing Knowledge and Skills in Critical Care Nursing and NM7232 Managing Complex Clients in Critical Care in sequential order to accredit a total of 60 level 7 credits, will lead to an exit award of a Postgraduate Certificate in Critical Care.

Students must pass all of the components of assessment in order to pass the module.

For our postgraduate certificate programme we normally require that the applicants:

  • Must be a registered nurse or practitioner.
  • Must have completed twelve months' post-registration experience.
  • Normally have successful completion of a degree at 2:1 or equivalent.  
  • 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 postgraduate (level 7) programmes of study the learning outcomes of the modules are designed to reflect the benchmark statements. Within NM7230 Concepts of Critical Care Nursing the students demonstrate the development of existing knowledge and skills and also the acquisition of new knowledge and skills and consider the evaluation of sources and methodology, exploring the frontiers of knowledge in an area, or relating one area to another and possibly pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. By including assistance for the development of understanding research within this module the student demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship, originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in critical care.  By incorporating research and evidence into this module delivery this conceptual understanding enables the student: to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship within the critical care area; to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.

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 NM7231 Advancing Knowledge and Skills in Critical Care Nursing. Here, the student will develop a systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of critical care professional practice and enhance their decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations and will continue to advance their knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills to a high level. And by way of assessment will be able to demonstrate that the student can expertly deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.

In NM7232 Managing Complex clients in Critical Care the student is working towards becoming an autonomous learner who is acquiring a higher level of understanding of subject content. They will be able to demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level. The student will be expected to have gained a systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of critical care professional practice and will have the underpinning knowledge to support the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

The level of the module outcomes demonstrates appropriate levels of taxonomy for the level of study, as do the contact and study hours. The national initiative with regard to Key Skills is taken into account.

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 (NM7230, NM7231 and NM7232).
  • 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 (NM7230, NM7231 and NM7232).
  • 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 (NM7230, NM7231 and NM7232).
  • Generate transferable evidence.
  • Have holistic content which is speciality specific (NM7230, NM7231 and NM7232).
  • 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 and 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
  • Resources and support for research skills.

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. There will be opportunity for the student to consider research theory, skills and critique during this programme and will be supported in this opportunity.

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 this level of 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 critical reasoning with regard to complex issues, which shows an ability to explore and develop alternative solutions.

Critical evaluation of key concepts of knowledge. Extensive systematic reading and demonstration of insight and originality.

Theory/practice link
Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of relevant knowledge and applicable techniques which are at the forefront of professional practice.

Demonstrate synthesis and be able to deal with complex issues in an original manner.

Demonstrate a systematic understanding and critical awareness of current and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of professional knowledge and practice.

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

Reaching sound judgements
Ability to critically evaluate current research, methodology and scholarship, and where appropriate, propose new hypotheses.

Excellent communication skills which can reach a wider audience.

Graduates 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 UK Equality Code (2010). 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 has 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 there 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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