Improving the quality of healthcare involves collaboration between many different stakeholders. Collaborative learning theory suggests that teaching different professional groups alongside each other may enable them to develop skills in how to collaborate effectively, but there is little literature on how this works in practice.


CLAHRC NWL has developed innovative pathways for workforce development. Here’s a case study example of how this could benefit an individual.
Wendy Carnegie joined the CLAHRC NWL team following extensive experience as a perioperative nurse in both the NHS and Private sector, during which time she worked clinically in the area of plastic, craniofacial and burns surgery. Wendy was seeking the next phase of her career and researching opportunities for development. However, traditionally, where development came from experience rather than an academic background, options for opportunities could be quite limited.


To contribute to addressing this gap, CLAHRC NWL developed and reviewed a collaborative fellowship in Northwest London, designed to build capacity to improve healthcare, which enabled patients and professionals to learn together.


In the meantime, within Wendy’s journeys  seeking future development, she gained a mentor from the clinical education group, met the director of nursing and discussed the options of deciding between management or nursing pathway. As the inpatient Theatre Matron, Wendy had the opportunity to join the ‘Productive Operating Theatre’ programme, developed by the NHS Institute of Innovation and Improvement. Carol Dale, a CLAHRC NWL Improvement Fellow, was involved in the ‘Productive Ward’ programme. Wendy’s introduction to Carol via these productive programs led to a patient experience secondment and later an introduction to Rowan Myron, CLAHRC NWL Collaborative Learning Partnerships lead at the time and tutor at UWL. Wendy was invited to apply for the MSc in Improvement Science.


The MSc in Improvement Science is a work based learning course, delivered by CLAHRC NWL, providing opportunity to work on an improvement project in the workplace. Students study improvement science methodology and theory, directly putting into practice what they learn into making a change in the workplace.


The CLAHRC NWL Improvement Leader Fellowship that Carol Dale participated on began in 2010. The collaborative design of the Fellowship, which included bringing multiple perspectives to discussions of real world problems, was valued by participants who reflected on the safe, egalitarian space created by the programme. Participants (healthcare professionals and patients) found this way of learning initially challenging yet ultimately productive. Despite the pedagogical and practical challenges of developing a collaborative programme, this study indicates that opening up previously restricted learning opportunities as widely as possible, to include patients and carers, is an effective mechanism to develop collaborative skills for quality improvement.


Being faced with taking a massive step in furthering her education, Wendy had to break the barrier of assumptions that come along with studying for a masters degree. Networking and working with a broader range of people and having these new career experiences empowered Wendy’s development and confidence.  With her new in-depth insight to improvement science, she was drawn to the idea of still having a positive impact on patients’ lives through impactful improvement projects and supported by quality improvement and improvement science methods. So when Rowan mentioned the opportunity of a new Improvement Science Manager role going at CLAHRC NWL it was a great opportunity for Wendy to progress within a workforce she is passionate about whilst satisfying the correlation between her studies of improvement science and her desire for new challenges.

Wendy has since graduated and leads on sharing and teaching improvement science methods to the project teams she works with. The CLAHRC NWL Improvement Leader Fellowship has since had a paper published on Tailor & Francis Online titled “Professionals learning together with patients: An exploratory study of a collaborative learning Fellowship programme for healthcare improvement”.