Building future leaders: Integrating Quality Improvement in a Public Health Masters Programme

North West LondonPublic Health
Published Date: 26 Mar 2019

The 2018/2019 ‘Quality Improvement in Healthcare’ module led by Dr Tom Woodcock and Dr Mable Nakubulwa forms part of the Health Services and Systems stream on the Master of Public Health at Imperial College London. This 10-week module has been developed by the CLAHRC NWL team, whose work involves facilitating the translation research evidence into practice to benefit patients within the NHS and social care environment.

Introduced in 2017 under the leadership of Dr Catherine French and Dr Julie Reed, the module introduces students to the complexities of improving healthcare, supporting them to develop an understanding of Quality Improvement (QI) and of how academic research can impact on the reality of healthcare. This is achieved through delivery of co-produced lectures, simulated project workshops (led by Dr Paul Sullivan) and assessments. The module draws on academic literature and research in QI, which are comprehensively illustrated with real life practical examples to aid students’ learning. The module also includes an external visit to meet QI teams working in healthcare, and a Q&A session with Lesley Watts, Chief Executive of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. This exposure to the reality of working for improvement in healthcare systems is valued by the students. By “applying theories and taught material in lectures to the group projects week by week … we're actually consolidating the theory by practice” (student mid-module feedback).

Unlike more traditional courses, the teaching and training offered is an integrated QI curricula with two unique features intended to support students in developing a rigorous and pragmatic approach to the challenges of improving healthcare for populations. Firstly, it draws on internationally acclaimed research conducted by CLAHRC NWL, culminating in the framework for ‘Successful Healthcare Improvement From Translating Evidence in complex systems’ (SHIFT-Evidence). The lectures are structured around SHIFT-Evidence to provide a sound grounding in the scientific basis for practice of QI in healthcare systems. Secondly, the module focuses on building capacity and capability in the use of QI methodologies and facilitates the development of key transferable skills through project-based workshops. Drawing on the published evidence on best practice and current quality of care, students work in groups to apply appropriate QI methodologies to address specific healthcare problems and develop an understanding of the contextual factors that affect achievement of their aim.

Working in groups during the workshops promotes collaboration and cooperation for producing better results, teaching students important life-long skills that are valuable in the professional workplace. We believe that using group work and collaborative learning in the classroom instills students with leadership skills, oral and verbal communication skills, team work, and autonomous working skills. Over the years, CLAHRC NWL has supported and supervised a number of MPH individual research projects, some of which have resulted in publications. Many students have gone on to work in QI practice and/or research, taking with them the skills and knowledge from the MPH as they contribute to efforts to improve healthcare for populations across the globe.