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Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice, University of Melbourne

By Clare O’Reilly

I was asked by CSTM to write a blog about the Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice program and, because I have been approached for information about the course over the past few years, I agreed.

What is the Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice?
The Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice is a part-time, online program administered through the Blood Matters Program and the University of Melbourne School of Professional and Continuing Education. It provides registered nurses and other health care professionals (such as medical scientists) with the professional and clinical knowledge and skills to act as a specialist resource in the area of Transfusion Practice.
 
Background to the Program
A pilot program, in 2002, called Blood Matters, led by a consortium of three organisations, was designed to develop sustainable and transferable improvements in transfusion practice for use by hospitals and clinicians across Victoria and Australia. Part of the project involved the introduction and development of a Transfusion Nurse role. A twelve month educational program was developed to support and educate a cohort of transfusion nurses. In 2003 the course went on line. In 2010, a national review was undertaken to ensure that the content remained relevant to the evolving transfusion practitioner role.

The course was reviewed again in 2015 and remodelled to include a 6 month Specialist Certificate in Blood Management Foundations.

The International Society of Blood Transfusion Academy has recently endorsed the program. CSTM and the Serious Hazards of Transfusion websites both have links to the program website.

Current Program
The current program brochure describes program as follows:

Specialist Certificate in Blood Management (25 points)
A foundation training course for health care professionals who work in areas where blood or blood products are transfused, or for those staff members responsible for managing organisational compliance with National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standard 7 and associated activities. Delivered online, part time over 11 weeks. It is comprised of a 25 point subject (Foundations in Blood Management) and is a pathway into the Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice.

Foundations in Blood Management (25 points)
Provides an introduction to the concepts of patient blood management (PBM), & NSQHS Standards relating to blood. The subject supports the development of specific skills, and provides information to assist health services to meet these standards.
 
Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice (50 points)
The Graduate Certificate builds on skills and knowledge developed in the Specialist Certificate, to cultivate an understanding of advanced concepts in blood management. It incorporates the Specialist Certificate plus a
further two 12.5 point subjects, as listed below.
 
Advanced Concepts in Blood Management (12.5 points)
Builds on the knowledge and expertise gained in the Foundations in Blood Management subject to provide advanced knowledge of relevant clinical practice guidelines and PBM strategies.

Quality Practice Portfolio (12.5 points)
A practical subject that embeds prior learnings by facilitating the application of knowledge and skills to the clinical setting.
 
The course is distance education course taught entirely online and delivered in partnership with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service under the auspices of the Blood Matters Program and the Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria. It is conducted by an experienced nurse educator with an extensive clinical background in haematology and transfusion.
 
My experience
I first heard about the course in 2005 when I was working as a Haemovigilance Officer in Ireland, and I was looking for a program that was relevant to my area of practice. There was a program on offer at Dublin City University that was similar to and had the same objectives as the Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice program in Melbourne.  However, initially there was a waitlist for the course, and I lived too far from Dublin to commute. A colleague told me about the University of Melbourne’s Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice. I did some research and spoke with a Haemovigilance Officer in Ireland who had completed the program. The program appealed to me because it was a distance learning program. Unfortunately, my internet service was inadequate, and for family reasons, I was not able to commit to the course at the time. In 2010 I returned to Canada, and in 2012 I finally registered for the course.  By this time I had reviewed the curriculum content and communicated with the course coordinator, and I was confident that the program content was relevant to my role and applicable in Canada.

When I took the course the format was slightly different and had four modules:
  • Fundamentals in Transfusion Practice Explores
  • Quality in Transfusion Practice
  • Advanced Concepts in Transfusion Practice
  • Transfusion Specialty Practice
I encountered no problems with accessing the course portal and thoroughly enjoyed the online nature of the course. I had the freedom to study and complete assignments when my timetable permitted and as a busy parent with a full-time job this was a bonus. The time difference between BC and Australia was not an issue as there were no webinars or tutorials that required me to log in at a particular time, yet another factor that ensured that I could fit course commitments around my timetable as opposed to adjusting my home and work timetable to facilitate course commitments. The only instance when the time difference had an impact was for deadlines, Melbourne is almost a full day ahead of BC, and I had to be careful to remember this when submitting my work. The course time-table is different to Canadian course timetables. I believe that the flexibility of online learning was a significant factor in my enjoyment of this course.

Many people have asked me if it was a problem to complete an Australian program and the answer is no. The basic principles of safe transfusion practice are universal, and I was confident that I would benefit from learning more about transfusion practice in a different jurisdiction. The learner is always instructed to “refer to practice at their site” or “refer to standards in their jurisdiction”, and I was able to use my experience from Ireland and Canada. I was familiar with the Blood Matters, Australian Red Cross and, the Australian & New Zealand Society of Blood Transfusion websites and had easy access to Australian material when needed. I would encourage anyone who has reservations about completing the course because it is not a Canadian course to reconsider. I was not the only international student in my cohort, and we all benefited from learning about practice from different parts of the world. Approximately 15 international students have completed the course; these students were from New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, UAE, India, Hong Kong and Ireland and UK.

In my cohort, there was a mixture of nurses and technologists. The mix of nursing and technical learners added to the value of the course. We had an opportunity to learn from each other and gained a better understanding of each other’s role in transfusion practice. 80 to 90% of participants are nurses. Three medical doctors have also completed the course.

By the time I enrolled in the course I had worked as a nurse for more than twenty years and in the field of transfusion practice for at least ten years. I had worked in paediatric oncology/haematology and bone marrow transplant for many years. I had also worked as an autologous nurse, as a platelet apheresis nurse in Ireland and Canada, a haemovigilance nurse in Ireland and a clinical coordinator at the BC Provincial Blood Coordination Office. I had learned lots over the years, but I was keen to study and gain certification that was specific to my area of specialisation. It had been many years since I had been a student, but this did not deter me. I learned lots and had a few ‘aha’ moments when studying.  I believe this course has much to offer any student who is keen to learn regardless of years on the job.

An essential consideration in signing up for any university level course is cost. I compared the fees for the Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice program with other post graduate diploma programs and it compared favourably. I only had to pay for two textbooks, and I have used both books on numerous occasions since completing the course. The cost of the course will vary depending on exchange rates between the Canadian and Australian dollar. Canadians can claim the cost of the course on their tax returns.

Every time someone has asked me about the Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice program, I am excited to have an opportunity to share my experiences. I enjoyed every aspect of this course; the online learning experience, sharing (via online forums) with other students and learning from my fellow students (these interactions were invaluable). The content and reading materials were intellectually stimulating. Another critical factor to my enjoyment of the course is the course facilitator; her support and encouragement enhanced my learning experience. 

I hope this helps anyone who is interested in the course. I am confident that I have benefited from completing the Graduate Certificate in Transfusion Practice program; I increased my knowledge in haematology, transfusion medicine and transfusion practice; I learned new skills, e.g. writing a report, deepened my understanding of “root-cause analysis”. I made connections and shared resources, and I picked some innovative concepts and approaches that made me more effective and efficient in my work. 
 

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