Sharon Norman is course lead and lecturer for the MSc Critical Care within the Department of Anaesthetics, Intensive Care and Critical Care Medicine at Cardiff University.
Sharon registered as a nurse in 1995 and began working at the intensive care unit (ICU) in Cardiff Royal Infirmary. In 1999 Cardiff Royal Infirmary’s ICU merged with University Hospital of Wales. She became a Clinical Development Nurse in 2001, which saw her move into a more focused teaching role, identifying and delivering individual educational needs of nurses at the bedside.
“Whilst I was nursing, the department director came to see Dr Ann Taylor (who is the course director) about developing an MSc in Critical Care,” she says. “I was invited along as part of a focus group in trying to establish whether there was a need for the MSc and what would be in it. I agreed to write one of the modules of the MSc. Then a job came up for a lecturer on the MSc, which commenced in 2003. I applied and got it. That was the first intake for the MSc and my role as an educator has grown from there.”
Almost a decade ago, the world was on the cusp of adapting existing projects to the technological innovation which the internet was trailblazing. As innovator’s, the department academics developed unique e-learning, interprofessional and international Masters programmes and stand alone modules.
“Our Masters courses (MSc’s in Advanced Surgical Practice, Critical Care and Pain Management) were distance learning pre 2008, so everything we received arrived in paper and we sent everything back to the students in paper. We ran residential weekends where we met the students, but these became increasingly difficult for students to attend. We decided that we needed to move with the times and we developed the courses to e-learning courses,” says Mrs Norman. “We haven’t looked back from then! The intake for the MSc in Critical Care has expanded and doubled within one year. In 2007, the department made me course lead for the MSc in Critical Care so that’s how I got here. I’ve taken on the general management, marketing and development of the course, with the support of the course team.”
Whilst a clinical practitioner, Sharon was also studying for an MBA in order to improve her business sense.
“Part of the MBA involved resource management, strategy and innovation and it’s all really part of working with and leading teams and working within budgeting constraints of any business,” she explains of her choice. “I’m afraid that the NHS, just like the University, has got a business aspect to it. It’s not an ever flowing pot of money that will keep feeding. You have to learn to manage resources.”
Her MBA and the team’s innovation of the e-learning courses have now converged to a notable degree and resulted in her development of a marketing plan for the department’s four Masters programmes and expanding number of stand alone modules.
“We are trying to work out are we delivering what is required and are we reaching the people that we want to deliver our products to? That’s basically it,” she says in a very natural manner. “It considers what we’ve got and how to bring it forward and whether it meets the needs of the market and how to get us ahead of the market.”
One of the most significant outcomes of the marketing plan is the rebranding of the four Masters programmes which have been united under the Cardiff University brand alongside the standalone modules. This is currently being considered for adoption by the whole department and the Post Graduate Office of the School of Medicine.
“If you think of McDonalds, you’ve got a big yellow M. Cardiff University is the big red square. How do we let people know who we are when we’re not even using the branding?” she asks.
Additionally, the Department has long been aware of the importance of recognition. For example, UHW is the biggest hospital in Wales.
“We can sometimes shut our self in from the world around us, focusing on our daily e-tasks. We understand the need to collaborate more and work throughout the department more so that we know what we’re doing and what are other people doing and vice versa,” Sharon continues. “We’re aiming to work together to ensure that what we do academically works well clinically.”
Recently, this desire for collaboration has developed into the recognition of marketing the department’s short one and two day courses along side the University accredited stand alone modules to provide a linear approach to training and education for healthcare staff such as the research, statistics and evidence based practice stand alone module and the SPSS short course.
“They are completely separately to the modules in the Masters courses that we run and we realised that we should be working together and this could be a natural progression for healthcare staff interested in research” she says. “If you’re interested in statistics for example you might do the SPSS course within the department but then you might go on to do the research, statistics and evidence based practice stand alone module that we offer and who knows, one day, maybe a Masters?”
The stand alone modules and Masters courses are available as e-learning courses which means that students can log on and study in their own time and there is no need to take leave to come to Cardiff and study. Additionally, students can work through the modules at their own pace throughout a 10 to 12 week period.
The possibilities of this are exciting for obvious reasons: offering high quality, accredited training to medical professionals from a variety of backgrounds who want to continue their professional development can only benefit society on a wider scale.
Working alongside knowledgeable clinicians, the department’s course team aim to be at the helm of such innovation; we can feel safe knowing that innovation in post graduate medical education is in experienced and enthusiastic hands.
Contact details of all our department’s Masters courses and modules can be found by clicking the appropriate course link at: