Exclusive: New master’s degree course for ophthalmic nurses

The ophthalmic clinical practice MSc course will be delivered in partnership between Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University College London’s Institute of Ophthalmology and will be open to registered nurses and allied health professionals.

“It provides an academic pathway to develop your advanced practice”

Tracy Luckett

Launching this September, the course will give nurses a stepping stone into advanced clinical practice and consultant roles in ophthalmology.

The learning will mostly be done online, allowing nurses to stay in work while studying, said the trust.

Those behind the scheme hope it will help plug shortages in eye doctors and relieve pressure on existing staff by upskilling nurses and AHPs to be able to carry out a wider variety of duties.

Students will gain an advanced knowledge of common eye diseases and specialities, as well skills in academic writing, problem-based learning and group work, independent research and analytics.

Moorfields and UCL previously launched a postgraduate certificate in clinical ophthalmic practice for nurses and AHPs around three or four years ago and it attracts around 50 students a year.

tracy luckett

tracy luckett

Source: Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Tracy Luckett

Tracy Luckett, director of nursing and allied health professions at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said since then, the team “felt there was an absolute need to grow” to offer and launch a full master’s degree.

She told Nursing Times that she hoped the initiative would help fill workforce gaps and stop nurses leaving ophthalmology or the profession all together by supporting their career development.

“We know that we need to recruit more nurses, we know that there’s obviously other groups of professional staff where we need further recruitment and it’s about being able to offer a programme like the MSc that will encourage nurses to come and work at Moorfields, to be motivated, to feel that they have a real part of delivering clinical frontline care, making decisions and it will help retain staff,” she said.

“It’s part of a career pathway, so if you come into ophthalmology either as a new graduate or a nurse with some ophthalmology experience it provides an academic pathway to develop your advanced practice and really to move up the nursing ladder in ophthalmology and not go elsewhere,” Ms Luckett said.

“The blended learning approach allows students to study in their own time”

Helen Gibbons 

Helen Gibbons, clinical lead nurse at Moorfields Eye Hospital and MSc programme director, said the course had been developed “with the modern ophthalmic nurse in mind”.

“The blended learning approach allows students to study in their own time with minimal face to face delivery gain knowledge and skills within their own workplace,” she said.

“The course provides nurses with the underpinning knowledge base in order to understand the presenting pathology of the patients they treat,” Ms Gibbons said. 

“It supports the development of clinical skills which enables students to develop autonomous practice, leading to greater efficiency and patient satisfaction,” she added. 

Professor Nora Ann Colton, joint director of education at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital, said she believed the future of healthcare involved “re-shaping and upskilling” the workforce to assume new and expanded roles.

Students will be able to complete the course in one year on a full-time basis, two years part-time or across five years on a flexible arrangement.

They will either have to self-fund the course or they could apply for financial support from their employer.