Health care systems are experiencing intensive changes, reforms and developments globally. While this brings multiple challenges to the fore, new opportunities are presenting themselves for healthcare practitioners worldwide.
As populations age and the number of people living with complex, chronic or multiple conditions rise, the demand for allied health professionals has never been greater.
In the UK, one university is at the forefront of producing practice-ready graduates, positively contributing to the health of society: the School of Health Sciences at Robert Gordon University (RGU).
The School is a good example of how placements and professional links can produce future-ready health graduates. It starts with an innovative approach to education – RGU always thinks creatively about how professions are changing according to the many transformations, small and large, happening in today’s health care landscape.
It’s one of the UK’s premier universities for innovative degree programmes – it was the first to offer a MSc Physiotherapy (Pre-registration) and a Doctorate of Physiotherapy. Its most recent offerings, the Master of Diagnostic Radiography and Master of Occupational Therapy are unique within the UK, as well as the MSc in Exercise Health and Wellness Coaching, while the Master of Physiotherapy and Master of Dietetics programmes are both firsts in Scotland.
Liz Hancock, Vice Principal of the university and former Head of the School, said: “We have made it a key priority to understand the needs of our colleagues working in the health and social care sector, as well as the challenges facing society, and to shape our programmes accordingly.
“By launching these new integrated Master’s degrees, we are not only meeting and exceeding the current demands, but ensuring that our students get the best possible experience to make a big impact in their chosen fields and communities.”
Today, these health programmes are ranked as some of the best globally in terms of career outcomes. In the Complete University Guide 2019, the Physiotherapy and Medical Technology (Diagnostic Radiography) programmes are ranked joint first in the UK for graduate prospects, whereas Occupational Therapy and Dietetics (under Food Sciences) are first in Scotland for graduate prospects, with the latter also standing at 1st in the UK. The Dietetics, Radiography and Physiotherapy programmes are also ranked first in the UK for graduate prospects in the Times Good University Guide 2018.
What’s the secret to the School’s success?
Many graduates struggle to transition from university to the working world. Due to the vast differences in demands and expectations, as well as the switch in environment, it can be a hard or at the very least, time-consuming process.
The solution is to weave employability into courses early on. In this respect, the school provides stellar examples on how universities can do this well.
RGU offers an educational experience that prioritises the application of theory, where learning is active and engaging. Classes are focused on inculcating a strong research background and placing emphasis on professionalism and employability. Using simulated learning, where authentic practice settings are replicated on campus, the school provides a unique learning environment for students to practice realistically and gain confidence in a safe environment before entering their profession.
By working with community groups such as Brain Injury Grampian, MS Society, Alzheimer’s Scotland and schools across Aberdeen, students here receive stellar situated learning opportunities in addition to formal placements, receiving excellent support as they gain crucial clinical skills. This is supplemented in the BSc (Hons) Applied Sport and Exercise Science course, with practical qualifications enabling students to enrol with the Register of Exercise Professionals and gain coaching qualifications. Sports Science and Dietetics students can also undertake qualifications with the International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry.
Assessments are designed to tackle tasks relevant to the working environment, also instilling the broad range of graduate skills required in the world today, unlike others that heavily rely on written examinations and multiple-choice questions.
The School holds invaluable accreditations from leading organisations, institutions and professional bodies in the UK, such as The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), The Society and College of Radiographers, College of Occupational Therapists, and in the US, The Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education has accredited the Doctorate of Physiotherapy – the only non-North American course to have received this recognition.
RGU strives to offer integrated placements and work-based experience at every opportunity. The key here is in engaging, active learning, integrating both situated and simulated leaning through transformative real-world roles.
Jessie Dalton, graduate of MSc Physiotherapy, says: “There’s a lot of practical learning and we’re out in placement quite early in our degree compared to those doing similar courses at other universities. Being able to apply things so soon after learning about them in the classroom is very beneficial to learning and great experience.”
For mature students like Kim Howatson, now a graduate, there were additional considerations that had to be thought of before applying to further her studies. It was important that the university she chose had a good reputation in putting practical learning first and producing work-ready graduates.
This school fits the bill.
As Kim explains, “Being a student at RGU has offered me so many opportunities for personal development and hugely increased my confidence. The OT course offers an engaging and practical learning environment with really creative, yet professional ways to enable learning.”
Through ground-breaking programmes and structured support, the School of Health Sciences at RGU produces impactful professionals and develops their careers. From the MSc in Public Health and Health Promotion, to the MSc in Exercise Health and Wellness Coaching and the MSc in Strategic Planning and Delivery in Health and Social Care; all courses are designed to address the changing needs of the human population. At RGU, you too can really make a difference.